22 July 2024

Watford church leader Mike Pilavachi ‘massaged young male interns..

The former Rev Canon Mike Pilavachi led Soul Survivor Church in Watford as well as a national Christian youth festival.


A Church of England probe found he displayed coercive and controlling behaviour at the church and had inappropriate relationships.


The BBC has been unable to reach Mr Pilavachi for comment.The Bishop of St Albans and Soul Survivor Church have apologised to victims.


Hertfordshire Police said there was currently no ongoing investigation into Mr Pilavachi, who resigned in July.


‘Massaging young male interns’

The Church of England investigation was conducted by the National Safeguarding Team (NST) and the diocese of St Albans.


It concluded that “safeguarding concerns” raised about him were “substantiated”.

in Watford, Hertfordshire


A report said those concerns related to conduct in his leadership and ministry, both before and after he was ordained in 2012, spanning 40 years from his time as a youth leader to the present day.


It said: “The overall substantiated concerns are described as an abuse of power relating to his ministry, and spiritual abuse; described in guidance as ‘a form of emotional and psychological abuse characterised by a systematic pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour in a religious context’.


“It was concluded that he used his spiritual authority to control people and that his coercive and controlling behaviour led to inappropriate relationships, the physical wrestling of youths and massaging of young male interns.”


‘Sorry for hurt caused’

Because Mr Pilavachi had resigned from his role at Soul Survivor and resigned his licence to the Bishop of St Albans, he “therefore cannot currently minister in the Church of England”, it added.


It further said: “The National Safeguarding Team has been granted permission to take out a complaint under the Clergy Discipline Measure against Mike Pilavachi, relating to a safeguarding concern post-ordination.”


The Bishop of St Albans, Alan Smith, said: “This has been a painful process for everyone involved, going back over years.


“I am sorry on behalf of the Church for the hurt caused and would like to acknowledge the courage of those who came forward to share their lived experience.


“I am aware there will be further contact with individuals about a more personalised response.”

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