THE founder of Soul Survivor, the Revd Mike Pilavachi, has received a written warning after disciplinary proceedings concerning a specific safeguarding complaint related to his time in ordained ministry, it was announced on Thursday.
A statement from the lead bishop for safeguarding, the Bishop of Stepney, Dr Joanne Grenfell (News, 4 July 2023), and the C of E’s national safeguarding director, Alex Kubeyinje, said that an allegation of misconduct was brought by the National Safeguarding Team (NST) under the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM). It related to the period after 2012 when Mr Pilavachi was ordained and was, therefore, subject to the CDM. The allegation concerned “Mr Pilavachi’s verbal interactions with a vulnerable person”.
Besides founding Soul Survivor, Mr Pilavachi was also Associate Pastor of Soul Survivor, Watford, in the diocese of St Albans.
A bishop from outside the diocese, who has not been named, considered the allegation and Mr Pilavachi’s response. The bishop concluded that no further action should be taken on the specific allegation, but said that Mr Pilavachi’s conduct had “fallen short of that expected of a priest in the Church of England”.
As a result, Mr Pilavachi had been issued with advice and a written warning, the statement said. It went on to say that the Deputy President of Tribunals had “determined that the decisions to take no further action and issue a warning and advice were properly made”.
The statement continued: “We commend the courage of the vulnerable person who came forward and gave clear evidence of the harm done in their life. We have been in contact with them throughout the process and offered continued support which is on offer to all those who have come forward and shared their experiences.”
Many of the well-publicised accusations of abuse which have been levelled at Mr Pilavachi — which include “inappropriate massages” — fall outside of the scope of the CDM, because they pre-date his ordination.
Last April, Mr Pilavachi agreed to “step back from all ministry” at Soul Survivor, after reports of safeguarding concerns (News, 3 April 2023). He subsequently resigned as Associate Pastor of Soul Survivor, Watford, saying: “I seek forgiveness from any whom I have hurt during the course of my ministry (News, 11 July 2023).
The statement on Thursday of last week made clear that he currently does not have a licence to minister, and said that “should he wish to return to any ministry in the Church of England this will be fully risk assessed”.
An investigation last summer by the NST and the diocese of St Albans concluded that safeguarding concerns were “substantiated” (News, 7 September).
Premier News reported the person who made the complaint as saying that she was “devastated” by the outcome of the CDM process.
“It is not proportionate to the harm I have experienced at the hands of Mike Pilavachi and Soul Survivor, and the impact this has had on my life.
“While I am truly grateful for the sensitivity and support of the diocesan and national safeguarding teams, this outcome leaves me questioning why I came forward, and whether the Church of England is a safe place for me.”
From 1995 to 2019, Mr Pilavachi fronted the Soul Survivor festivals, gaining significant prominence in the Church of England — and receiving an award from the Archbishop of Canterbury for evangelism (Gazette, 3 July 2020).