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New Wine to review its links with Pilavachi after attempt to distance itself fails

19 September 2023

New Wine

NEW WINE announced on Tuesday that a “full and independent review” of its relationship with the Revd Mike Pilavachi and Soul Survivor would be carried out. The announcement follows criticism of earlier statements by the network, which were said to minimise the relationship.

“Many have been hurt by Mike Pilavachi’s behaviour,” the Bishop of Lancaster, Dr Jill Duff, who chairs New Wine, said on Tuesday. “As the new chair of trustees, I have asked for a full and independent review into the nature and extent of our relationship with Mike Pilavachi and Soul Survivor, to ascertain if there were allegations about his conduct at any New Wine events, and to highlight what we can learn for the future.

“We are in the process of doing this, and will report as soon as possible. In the mean time, I would again urge anyone affected to seek the support and care that is available. Our priority throughout the NST [National Safeguarding Team] investigation has been to enable a safe space for survivors to come forward, be heard, and be cared for.”

On 6 September, the NST’s investigation of Mr Pilavachi, which began in April, concluded that concerns were “substantiated”: he had 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).

A week later, a statement was issued online by New Wine (News, 15 September), which said that the network was “deeply troubled and disheartened by the recent developments, and confirmed that Mr Pilavachi had served as a leader in the youth ministry of New Wine from 1989 until he founded Soul Survivor in 1993 (News, 9 June). But it went on: “Both organisations have always operated as separate entities. . . Mike has made various appearances as a visiting speaker at New Wine, which has been our continued connection since 1993.”

The earlier statement described New Wine’s commitment to “clarifying and tightening our safeguarding procedures and training”, and to helping leaders in the network “nurture safe communities of faith in which the hurting and abused can make disclosures, receive healing from Jesus and love, support, and care from others. Any type of mistreatment, manipulation, or inappropriate conduct will not be accepted or tolerated within the context of New Wine.”

Respondents on social media expressed disappointment, accusing New Wine of having failed to acknowledge the extent of its connection to both Soul Survivor and Mr Pilavachi. “Mike was an integral part of the youth speaking team until the early 2000s — to suggest otherwise just isn’t accurate,” Ali Campbell, a youth and children’s-ministry consultant, wrote.

A screenshot of a page from the New Wine website in 2000 listing Mr Pilavachi as a leader was also produced.

In the book marking the 30th anniversary of New Wine — Greater Things (SPCK, 2019) — Mr Pilavachi wrote that he had “continued to lead the New Wine youth event” after the launch of Soul Survivor in 1993.

On Sunday, New Wine issued a new statement, signed by its national leader, the Revd Richard Johnson (Vicar of St Nicholas and All Saints’, and St Helen’s, Worcester) and Dr Duff. The earlier statement had “caused great pain, disappointment, and confusion”, it acknowledged. “We deeply regret that the statement implied we were trying to minimise the relationship between New Wine and Mike Pilavachi. We are profoundly sorry.”

New Wine was launched at St Andrew’s, Chorleywood, in 1989. The Vicar at the time was the Rt Revd David Pytches, who had returned from South America after 18 years, which included a period as Bishop of Chile, Bolivia & Peru, in 1977. A film marking the 30th anniversary of New Wine described how he and his wife had experienced “signs and wonders” in Chile, and had “a revelation of how the power of the Spirit could impact their homeland and they longed to see God move in the UK”.

The visit of the American evangelist John Wimber, in 1981, had a dramatic impact on St Andrew’s, and, in 1989, the first New Wine gathering at Shepton Mallet took place, “to inspire and minister in the power of the Spirit”.

Mr Pilavachi became youth leader of St Andrew’s in 1986, and ran the youth work at the first New Wine festivals. The success of this gathering inspired the launch of the Soul Survivor festival in 1993. Hecontinued to lead the youth work at New Wine for a number of years.

A church, Soul Survivor, Watford, was also launched in 1993, as a plant from St Andrew’s. It began with 11 people meeting in a living room, including the current chair of trustees, David Mitchell, and Ken and Jeannie Morgan, worshippers at St Andrew’s who already had a charitable trust, the K & J Morgan Trust, under which the work of Soul Survivor was brought. Bishop Pytches continued to serve as a mentor to Mr Pilavachi.

It was at St Andrew’s that Mr Pilavachi first met Matt Redman, a member of the youth group who went on to serve as a worship leader at Soul Survivor. In July, Mr Redman said that he had experienced “harmful behaviours” from Mr Pilavachi (News, 14 July).

On Wednesday of last week, David Gate, a former worship leader at Soul Survivor who spoke to The Sunday Times about his experience of Mr Pilavachi’s “toxic behaviour”, wrote on social media that his “first abusive encounter with Mike was 1997 at New Wine”.

Filings at Companies House illustrate the close connections between New Wine and Soul Survivor. New Wine Trust and Soul Survivor were both incorporated in 2000.

Analysis of annual reports, carried out and shared on social media by James Heywood, a website producer, has highlighted a number of donations made by New Wine to Soul Survivor, including £74,000 in 2004. In 2000, Soul Survivor reported that “a donation amounting to £199,386 representing Soul Survivor’s share of total net assets has been transferred from New Wine Trust during the year.”

Soul Survivor Trading Ltd was incorporated in 1994, and Companies House lists a previous name as “New Wine (Chorleywood) Ltd” from 1994 to 1999.

A small number of trustees served in both the New Wine and Soul Survivor organisations during the early 2000s.

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