Mike Pilavachi suspended from employment at Soul Survivor ‘with immediate effect’ after he was called out over sexual allegations.
In early May, victims of the British pastor and founder of Christian youth festival Soul Survivor, came forward with allegations he ran “a cult” in which young men were encouraged to receive massages on his bed and engage in wrestling matches.
Pilavachi is the founder of the Soul Survivor Watford Church and its annual summer festivals. The festival had an average annual attendance of 30,000 teenagers from around the world.
In April 2023, Pilavachi quit the charity and stepped back from all Church of England ministry after it was announced that he was being investigated over “non-recent safeguarding concerns” by the Church of England National Safeguarding Team.
The Telegraph also claimed he gave inappropriate massages to the group’s members.
Now, the church board has given its members an update, claiming Pilavachi has been immediately suspended.
“The trustees of Soul Survivor Watford have suspended Mike Pilavachi as an employee with immediate effect while the formal independent investigation conducted by the National Safeguarding Team (NST) and St Albans Diocesan Safeguarding Team continues,” they said in a statement.
“It has become clear that this more decisive action should have been made earlier and we have acted to correct this now.
“When he stepped back from ministry in April, Mike resigned from the board of Soul Survivor Watford and all related charity boards,” the church said.
“We want to reiterate that we are especially aware of the responsibility we have towards those who reported their safeguarding concerns to the Church of England and of how much they are suffering. We regret this was not clear in our initial statement made on 2nd April and are sorry for the pain caused as a result.”
The church said that it is continuing to cooperate fully with the investigation and that anyone affected will continue to be given the opportunity to contribute to the investigation and given the support they need.
“We are also committed to reviewing the culture of Soul Survivor Watford and are determined that lessons are learned to ensure a strong, healthy and supportive environment for anyone who calls this church their home,” the church said.
“We recognise that there are currently many people who are feeling hurt and confused. It takes a lot of courage to speak up and we would encourage anyone who has concerns related to the investigation to report those to the NST on firstname.lastname@example.org or the Diocesan Safeguarding Team on email@example.com. For other concerns, please contact thirtyone:eight on 0303 003 1111, or the Safe Spaces helpline on 0300 303 1056. More detailed contact details can be found below.”
Pilavachi has a long history of being in ministry. In the early 1980s, he began working with youth in the Anglican Church, and he quickly became known for his dynamic speaking style and ability to connect with young people.
In 1993, he founded Soul Survivor with British worship leader Matt Redman, and the ministry grew rapidly, attracting thousands of young people to its annual summer festivals.
Today, Soul Survivor has expanded beyond the UK and hosts events and training programs for young people and leaders around the world. In addition to his work with Soul Survivor, Pilavachi has been a regular speaker at conferences and events, and has authored several books.