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Canon Mike Pilavachi ‘steps back’ during safeguarding investigation

03 April 2023

Soul Survivor

Canon Mike Pilavachi speaks at the Soul Survivor youth festival

Canon Mike Pilavachi speaks at the Soul Survivor youth festival

THE founder of the Christian youth festival Soul Survivor, Canon Mike Pilavachi, has agreed “to step back from all ministry” while “non-recent safeguarding concerns” are investigated, it has been announced.

Canon Pilavachi is Associate Pastor of Soul Survivor, Watford, a church that meets in two warehouses on an industrial estate in north Watford. It was planted from St Andrew’s, Chorleywood, in 1993. The same year, the first Soul Survivor conference was held, and its first festival was held over two weeks in 1995. The festivals ceased in 2019 (News, 1 June 2018; Features, 13 September 2019). They were attended by up to 35,000 young people and adults, the church says, and emphasised Charismatic gifts.

On behalf of the C of E’s National Safeguarding Team, the diocese of St Albans, and the trustees of Soul Survivor, Watford, the Suffragan Bishop of Bedford, the Rt Revd Richard Atkinson, read out a statement to the congregation of Soul Survivor on Sunday morning.

It says: “Non-recent safeguarding concerns relating to Mike Pilavachi have been reported to the national Church and, working closely with the Diocese of St Albans, these are currently being looked into according to the Church of England House of Bishops guidelines.

“Soul Survivor Watford Trustees were informed this week and have since been working with the National Safeguarding Team and the diocese. It was mutually agreed with Mike that he would step back from all ministry, while this investigation is carried out. We would like to stress that the police are not involved; this is not a criminal investigation and Mike has not been suspended. It is also not currently a clergy disciplinary matter.”

The statement goes on to say that it is not yet known when the investigation will conclude, and that Soul Survivor, Watford, will continue to be led by its Senior Pastor, the Revd Andy Croft.

A separate statement from the acting chair of the trustees of Soul Survivor, Watford, David Mitchell, says: “Whilst I cannot add to what has been said in the joint statement, I would like to underline the point that Mike is not under criminal investigation, has not been suspended and that the concerns currently relate to matters which occurred a considerable time ago.

“Nothing should be inferred from Mike stepping back; this is perfectly normal following the start of an investigation that has not reached a conclusion. We mutually agreed this was the best step because of the importance of correct procedures being followed.”

Canon Pilavachi was ordained deacon in 2012 and priest in 2013, after leading Soul Survivor for many years. He was appointed MBE for services to young people in the New Year Honours list in 2020 (News, 3 January 2020). Later that year, the Archbishop of Canterbury gave him the Alphege Award for Evangelism and Witness (Gazette, 3 July 2020).

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