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Andy Croft cleared to return to ministry, but resigns as Soul Survivor’s pastor

24 November 2023

Soul Survivor

The Revd Andy Croft preaches at Soul Survivor, Watford, in 2021

The Revd Andy Croft preaches at Soul Survivor, Watford, in 2021

THE senior pastor of Soul Survivor, Watford, the Revd Andy Croft, has been permitted to return to ministry, but he has resigned from his post at the church.

Mr Croft was suspended by the trustees of Soul Survivor, Watford, in June (News, 9 June). This was because the National Safeguarding Team (NST) had received new information which related to concerns about how Mr Croft had handled allegations brought to him about the behaviour of the Revd Mike Pilavachi, the founder of Soul Survivor.

The NST’s investigation of Mr Pilavachi, which began in April, concluded in September that concerns were “substantiated”. He had, it said, exhibited “coercive and controlling behaviour” that led to inappropriate relationships, the physical wrestling of youths, and the massaging of young male interns (News, 8 September).

Soul Survivor has since appointed Fiona Scolding KC to carry out an independent review of safeguarding allegations against Mr Pilavachi, the terms of reference of which were published this week (News, 24 November).

A statement issued on Thursday by the diocese of St Albans said: “Following a referral under the Church of England’s Clergy Disciplinary Measure and an Independent Safeguarding Risk Assessment, the Revd Andy Croft is now authorised to return to active ministry, with the support of the Bishop of St Albans and senior leadership of the Diocese of St Albans. He has now also completed additional safeguarding training.”

In a letter to the congregation of Soul Survivor, Watford, published on the church’s website, Mr Croft writes that he does not intend to return to his post as senior pastor. “This is despite constructive conversations with the trustees who were keen to explore ways in which I could return to the Soul Survivor Watford team. My family and I need to process much of what we have been through over these past years and we feel we can only do this by stepping away.”

He does not specify a departure date, and says that he is “committed to supporting the church in the months ahead”.

Mr Croft acknowledges that the diocese’s investigation “found that my safeguarding practice fell short on three occasions”. Two of these instances “did not reach the threshold for a disciplinary complaint to be made”, and, in the third instance, “a disciplinary complaint was made but it has now been dismissed”.

Nevertheless, he says that he is “committed to learning from my mistakes”. He has “had to confront the reality that errors in my judgement may have allowed others to experience pain. . . As someone in leadership, it feels like a profound failure on my part, for which I sincerely apologise.”

Mr Croft joined Soul Survivor as an intern in 2004, aged 18, and, after graduating from university, he joined the organisation’s staff in 2008, and became joint senior pastor of Soul Survivor, Watford, in 2016.

“The stories of victims that have now emerged and the work of the National Safeguarding Team have changed my perspective on much of what I have experienced from a young age,” he writes. “I need to acknowledge now that I myself have also been deeply impacted by aspects of Mike’s abusive behaviour.”

A statement published on the Soul Survivor website says that Mr Croft has resigned “with immediate effect” and that the Revd Jon Stevens “will continue the interim leadership of Soul Survivor Watford”. The statement says that Mr Croft “has shown humility, contrition, and a desire to learn from the mistakes of the past”.

The Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, said on Thursday: “I would like to thank Andy for his cooperation with the safeguarding investigation into the complaints against Mike Pilavachi and the following disciplinary processes regarding his own handling of safeguarding disclosures at Soul Survivor Watford.

“We are aware of the effect this had on everyone involved, particularly the victims and survivors and the courage they have shown in coming forward. We understand and fully support Andy’s decision to move on from his role as Soul Survivor and will continue to support him as he discerns where God is calling him to next.”

Mr Croft says that he and his family will continue to worship in the congregation at Soul Survivor while they discern what to do next.

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