Thinking Anglicans

Soul Survivor: further developments

Previous report here.

Updated

As before, I am late in reporting on this, but The Soul Survivor Situation – A Timeline continues to provide regular updates, do check it.

Mike Pilavachi announced his own resignation on 11 July, and the next day the BBC had this: Watford church leader resigns during Church of England probe.  The Church Times report is here: Canon Pilavachi resigns as Associate Pastor of Soul Survivor, Watford.

The Diocese of St Albans has Statements on Mike Pilavachi and Soul Survivor.

We have been informed of the resignation of Mike Pilavachi from his employment at Soul Survivor and want to stress that the safeguarding investigation will continue in line with House of Bishops guidance and we will continue to listen to and offer support to those who come forward. The joint investigation is being run by the diocese of St Albans and the National Safeguarding Team, independently of Soul Survivor…

The Private Member’s Motion mentioned in our previous report, had 112 signatures at 21 June, but did not get into the July agenda.

The most recent development is reported in the Church Times today: Matt Redman speaks of ‘harmful behaviours’ and ‘gaslighting’ after Pilavachi resignation. See also this report in Premier Christian News:‘I spent years trying to fully heal from my time at Soul Survivor’: Matt Redman reveals input into Mike Pilavachi safeguarding investigation.

Updates

Gabriella Swerling reports in the Telegraph ‘Toothless’ Soul Survivor abuse investigation has no power to punish preacher

…However, it has now emerged that the Church’s investigation into Pilavachi has no power to discipline him and will instead only be able to refer him to a psychologist.

The revelations have prompted criticism from those who have disclosed evidence to the investigation, as well as victims, accusing it of being not only “toothless”.

The NST investigators, who are continuing to call for victims and those with information to come forward, have said that only if there was evidence of misconduct after 2012, when Pilavachi was ordained, can a separate investigation be triggered and internal Church disciplinary proceedings be activated.

The exact timespan of the allegations surrounding Pilavachi’s behaviour remain unknown….

And the whole story is retold by her at great length in the Saturday edition of the Telegraph: The abuse scandal leaving a trail of destruction across Christianity.

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Flecks
Flecks
10 months ago

MP’s resignation statement on Facebook was suitably non-contrite, stating that he was resigning merely because he had become a ‘distraction’ from SS’s ministry. There followed a sickening litany of cheap grace expressions of confidence in him from fans. Barely a mention of the victims. Some church leaders were even jokingly arguing over who would get him to join the leadership of their churches. Disgraceful.

Rachel
Rachel
Reply to  Flecks
10 months ago

Indeed! J John’s response was appalling. As was Dr Caroline Leafs. I couldn’t believe how they were praising him for his ‘faithfulness’. Are they mad? 100 people have come forward (and my friend is supporting a survivor). If you want to be educated in abusive, gaslighting leaders, try reading ‘Why does he do that?’ By Lundy Bancroft. -The best book I’ve read on abuse, and yes I too am a survivor.

FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
Reply to  Rachel
10 months ago

If I may, what were their responses?

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  FearandTremolo
10 months ago

J. John and Terry Virgo tweeted expressing support for Pilavachi.

It would be OK, and possibly a good thing, for them to write privately expressing support – Pilavachi must be in a bad place now. But public support is not on for the reasons others are giving.

Martin Sewell
Martin Sewell
Reply to  Janet Fife
10 months ago

A Synod colleague has coined this excellent aphorism.

“Tribe before Truth is Toxic”

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  FearandTremolo
10 months ago

Terry Virgo has now issued a clarification on Twitter and Facebook, saying he was unaware of the allegations against Pilavachi. If there’s such a thing as a hermetically sealed bubble, he must be living in one.

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
Reply to  Rachel
10 months ago

Shocking comments from J John and Terry Virgo, who simply don’t get it. Supporting perpetrators is re-traumatising victims and survivors. This heartfelt video from Christy Wimber (see SSW timeline and below) is the only pastorally sensitive contribution I’ve come across, and it’s not from anywhere close to the Church of England, a denomination which ordained this man only fairly recently. I hope it may help some, who as ever with these abuse cases are bottom of the pile. I’d like to see J John and Terry Virgo respond to the on-message (strong) assertion that they are making an idol of… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Anthony Archer
10 months ago

Not only ordained him but awarded him a medal (30-06-2020):

https://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/news/archbishop-canterbury-announces-2020-lambeth-awards-recipients

“The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, today announced this year’s recipients of Lambeth Awards for outstanding contributions to the Church and wider society. 

Mike Pilavachi – The Alphege Award for Evangelism and Witness. For his outstanding contribution to evangelism and discipleship amongst young people in the United Kingdom.”

I’m not blaming Justin for not knowing about the allegations, but that makes it even sadder that they were covered up for so long.

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
Reply to  Anthony Archer
10 months ago

I see Terry Virgo has now written a ‘clarification’ on his Facebook page. Readers will make of it what they will.

David Hawkins
David Hawkins
10 months ago

“The joint investigation is being run by the diocese of St Albans and the National Safeguarding Team”. Why does the Church of England need diocesan safeguarding Teams, a National Safeguarding Team and an Independent Safeguarding Board ? I could imagine that many Diocesan Teams have very little to do whereas others are overwhelmed when a serious case emerges. This imbalance could be evened out if all safeguarding investigation was carried out at a national level. I imagine safeguarding training is already a national function. I know bishops fiercely guard their autonomy and I am not usually in favour of centralization… Read more »

Last edited 10 months ago by David Hawkins
Tim Chesterton
Reply to  David Hawkins
10 months ago

I have actually had the opposite reaction as I have watched this unfold over the past few weeks, living as I do in a province of the Anglican Communion in which safeguarding is a diocesan responsibility. I know that’s partly to do with the size of our country, but ultimately, the safeguarding is going to happen at a parish level, and it’s a lot easier for dioceses to supervise parishes than for the national church to try to do it. At least, that’s what I think. But then, I’m constantly amazed at how over-centralized the Church of England is. (Wedding… Read more »

Mark
Mark
10 months ago

Hi, Iʼm reading this book and wanted to share this quote with you. “Yet when I leave the Party, this is what I am going to miss—the company of people who have spent their lives in a certain kind of atmosphere, where it is taken for granted that their lives must be related to a central philosophy. This is why so many people who would like to leave, or think they should leave, the Party, do not. There is no group of people or type of intellectual I have met outside the Party which isn’t ill-informed, frivolous, parochial, compared with… Read more »

Susannah Clark
10 months ago

I just feel real sadness about this case, because of breach of trust, and the potential impact on people’s faith.

All three of my children attended Soul Survivor Watford when they were teenagers in the noughties. They trusted (we trusted as parents) in the worship as safe space and the leaders as safe people.

So yes, this is deeply saddening, and a stain on young people’s trust, idealism and memories.

David Hawkins
David Hawkins
Reply to  Susannah Clark
10 months ago

As a member of our Church Council I had to undertake online safeguarding training. What concerned me a great deal was the training was exclusively about adults monitoring the behaviour of other adults and nothing at all about empowering children. Your teenage years can be a very troubling time in your life whether you are being abused by a priest or a family member, bullied by your peers or engaging in self harm. I worry very much that safeguarding is really about protecting the church not our young people. Surely every young person in a parish should be told that… Read more »

Last edited 10 months ago by David Hawkins
FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  David Hawkins
10 months ago

Having been required to attend a number of safeguarding courses as a requirement to officiate, I am no wiser about how they keep vulnerable people safe. My PTO recently lapsed . I’m supposed to undergo further training about domestic abuse, among other courses. I fail to see how learning that some people beat their spouse equips me, as a retired priest, to help out in covering for services. I have watched Nicky Gumbel and his wife on YouTube fawning over Mike Pilavachi. I assume Mr Gumbel has been on the required number of safeguarding courses. Why didn’t he spot an… Read more »

David Hawkins
David Hawkins
Reply to  FrDavid H
10 months ago

I agree with much of what you say Fr David what I do think would make a difference is if every parish in the country had two or more trusted people who people in trouble (for whatever reason) could turn to. This especially applies to children and teenagers. I’m not suggesting every parish replicates social services but every parish should be prepared to listen and offer support. Rather than you having to spot an abused woman, the abused woman should know she can approach you in the strictest confidence. To give you an example I used to work as a… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  David Hawkins
10 months ago

It is sad that I’d have to attend a course to be taught that an abused woman can approach me in confidence. Trust has to be earned, and attending a safeguarding course doesn’t make anyone safer or more approachable. The Soul Survivor scandal illustrates how manipulative abusers usually are . If I were inclined to be an abusive priest, the first thing I’d do is attend a safeguarding course as a suitable cover for my nefarious actions. Your suggestion that a parish should appoint some trusted people is indicative of a sad state of affairs when people can’t trust the… Read more »

David Hawkins
David Hawkins
Reply to  FrDavid H
10 months ago

Dear Fr David it’s not you who needs to be taught that an abused woman can approach you in confidence it’s the frightened, confused or abused child who needs to know they can approach you. And unfortunately in rare cases the abuser may be the priest. The focus is wrong Fr David. The focus is currently on perpetrators of abuse whereas the focus should always be on the vulnerable. In my view the reasons are very clear. Firstly safeguarding is primarily about protecting the Church not helping victims. Secondly the focus on perpetrators suits the bureaucratic, managerial mindset that currently… Read more »

Last edited 10 months ago by David Hawkins
Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  FrDavid H
10 months ago

One of the aims of safeguarding training is to help the trainees be more alert to when someone is making a disclosure, or a child might be suffering abuse. This does take some expertise.

It’s also necessary to know what steps to take and who to contact when abuse is known or suspected.

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
Reply to  David Hawkins
10 months ago

Well there should always be someone other than the clergy in case it is the clergy who are the problem (as has been the case too often). But there is also a power issue. Senior lay people in a Church can often be loyal to their clergy, and powerful clergy can be pretty good at grooming their accountability structures (otherwise known as regulatory capture). The dismissive terms in which some survivors have been described to reduce their credibility is just one example of the dynamic. As we heard at Synod we have a low trust environment – the building of… Read more »

NJW
NJW
Reply to  FrDavid H
10 months ago

Perhaps training has some similarity to faith. It is offered, but only makes any difference if the recipient opens their heart to how it may change them. I have attended many courses (including safeguarding) in both church and education, and many times have come away unchanged. But sometimes I have let my eyes be opened…

Liz Umoh
Liz Umoh
Reply to  FrDavid H
10 months ago

If safeguarding courses are going to be of any practical benefit, they need to train church leaders about interpersonal boundaries, and to a lesser extent procedural boundaries. There has to be a line drawn regarding how someone in a position of power relates to those below them. It takes time and thought and intentionality and for a leader to really understand how they interact with those in their care, what motivates them to be closer to some rather than others etc etc. The leader should be able to reflect on their own interpersonal style, and anticipate areas of weakness and… Read more »

Caroline
Reply to  FrDavid H
7 months ago

Who funds the Alpha Course

Baptist Trainfan
Baptist Trainfan
Reply to  David Hawkins
10 months ago

Those are very good points. We certainly have some young people who are unsure of their sexuality, and others who are struggling with life. I’d say that, although we’ve never really discussed sexuality issues openly, that we aren’t bad at simply valuing and accepting people as humans beings. Quite apart from safeguarding training, we were happy to recently send two of our YP leaders on a short “emotional first aid” course as they felt they needed better resources in order to offer support.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Baptist Trainfan
10 months ago

If a church is a place that is seen to have “never really discussed sexuality issues openly”, then young people will pick up on that, and decide that they can never take the risk of discussing their own sexuality issues within that community. Young people needing help will be terrified of bad reactions, and will be looking for any evidence that if they take the risk of revealing their deepest secrets and fears they will not be rejected. But so many churches never discuss sexuality in public, so the young people live in a vacuum of never knowing if their… Read more »

Last edited 10 months ago by Simon Dawson
David Hawkins
David Hawkins
10 months ago

“But accountability is so key in these moments – especially for those who have taken on the role of leadership in the Church.” (Matt Redman)
That is the key issue for me and at the National Synod we all witnessed a Church hierarchy that resists accountability.
Ministry is supposed to be about service not arrogance and while the overwhelming majority of Church of England priests understand that far too many don’t.
If we fail the vulnerable we have failed even if we attract large congregations.

Last edited 10 months ago by David Hawkins
God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
Reply to  David Hawkins
10 months ago

St Albans Diocese has a substantial safeguarding infrastructureL https://www.stalbansdiocese.org/safeguarding/safeguarding-contacts/ as has SSW: https://www.soulsurvivorwatford.co.uk/safeguarding I am sure that any investigation will demonstrate their appropriateness. I could not find an entry for SSW on the CofE A Church Near You website, although I see on the SSW website a Rev James Barlow shown on the Team as Curate there and as Curate in Charge at St Andrew’s Watford, for which there is a ACNY entry: https://www.achurchnearyou.com/church/7614/ which highlights safeguarding. St Andrew’s website directs to the CofE Morning Prayer for the day which today commemorates St Swithun, + Winchester with Psalms 120-122 seeking… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  God 'elp us all
10 months ago

However good St Albans’ safeguarding structures may be, they aren’t independent of Soul Survivor, the diocese, or the C of E. The investigation needs to be handled by an outside body.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Janet Fife
10 months ago

Totally agree with you, Janet.

Alan Marsh
Alan Marsh
Reply to  God 'elp us all
10 months ago

Has the substantial safeguarding infrastructure of St Alban’s Diocese done anything to help the enormous number of victims of the Post Office scandal, given that one of the leaders of the Post Office at that time is a member of the clergy in the diocese?

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Alan Marsh
10 months ago

The Bishop of St Albans shrugged his shoulders and said that there was nothing he could do about that particular member of the clergy. Similarly, he said that there was no way he could call for an independent enquiry into Soul Survivor. Reassuring, isn’t it?

Diogenes
Diogenes
Reply to  Alan Marsh
10 months ago

Good point. Something I wrote to the bishop about and received a very non-specific reply. Great!

Susanna (no ‘h’)
Susanna (no ‘h’)
Reply to  Diogenes
10 months ago

A discussion about this was the first item on R4 Sunday this morning just after 7.15 am …. It was commenting on the lack of transparency in the Church’s investigation processes- and the former member of the group who was interviewed made it clear how long the issue had been going on- so presumably a lot of powerful clergy feel at risk for failing to flag things up ages ago.
But- or because of this- still the powers that be think they can keep the genie in their bottle… I wonder what is the stage beyond inhabiting a parallel universe?

David Rowett
Reply to  Susanna (no ‘h’)
10 months ago

I believe Douglas Adams coined the phrase ‘at right angles to reality’ if that helps….

Susanna (no ‘h’)
Susanna (no ‘h’)
Reply to  Diogenes
10 months ago

Said Anglican priest is mentioned in the Guardian yesterday in relation to an egregious and ongoing miscarriage of justice
happening in plain sight
Can anyone else think of another one not a million miles away from here- and where there seems to be a very similar desire to ignore the victims and survivors ??

Caroline
Reply to  David Hawkins
7 months ago

The Church of England has covered up abuse in quite recent times as someone mentioned earlier

Jonathan Castro
Jonathan Castro
10 months ago

Historically the charismatic phenomenon has always been seen as an aberration on the fringes of Christianity.

David Rowett
Reply to  Jonathan Castro
10 months ago

Well, I suppose that Montanism (among other phenomena) brought it into disrepute, but surely any of the Church’s traditions can (and do) go ‘cuckoo’ given the chance, my own included. (The Toronto Blessing – remember that? – stuff looks decidedly thin, but so do Jack Spong’s kakangelion, and that hyper-ultra-montanism which makes the Pope look like the late Pastor Jack Glass.) I don’t think I have a charismatic bone in my body, but Jonathan’s judgment seems a little harsh/broad-brush, and I would prefer the finger to be pointed at the cult of personality (‘charismatic’ in a different sense), something which… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  David Rowett
10 months ago

Indeed, Fr. David, but perhaps it is possible to go further and insist that it is a persistent dynamic inherent to any faith system: “There is, I would say, a recurrent situation in church history – using the word ‘church’ in its widest sense – where an excess of charity threatens unity. You have a clique, an elite, of Christian men and (more importantly) women, who are trying to live a less worldly life than their neighbours; to be more attentive to the guidance (directly felt, they will tell you) of the Holy Spirit. More and more, by a kind… Read more »

David Rowett
Reply to  Froghole
10 months ago

What an excellent quote! Many thanks for that, most thought-provoking. And mutatis mutandis perhaps it can also help cast light upon the fissiparous tendencies of other quasi-credal groups, such as political parties.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Froghole
10 months ago

Oh, brilliant. What a beautifully concise analysis, and very accurately observed.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  John Davies
10 months ago

Ronald Knox, as some might know, was a very great stylist, and a precocious one. For example, as a ‘tug’ in College he wrote this sample of WC graffiti: “Fairest Cloaca, goddess of this place, The established seat of every child of grace. Smooth o’er thee may our libations flow, Not rudely swift, nor obstinately slow.” The Cloaca Maxima was the main drain of Rome, and worshipped as such; a ‘child of grace’ was a king’s scholar. The best summary of his stylistic abilities was in his 1957 Romanes lecture (‘On English Translation’), delivered when he was very evidently in… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  David Rowett
10 months ago

So much depends on how you define ‘charismatic’ (what do we mean…?) I had plenty of discussions over this, particularly when Toronto and John Wimber were the flavour of the month, and I certainly couldn’t go along with either of them. ‘Charismatic’ in the Christian sense, to me means that we have the Holy Spirit living within us – and that that Spirit comes to us at conversion. Indeed, one could argue that the Spirit is there before then, drawing us to a point where we realise our need and helping us respond. So in that respect, all Christians are… Read more »

Mark Andiam
Mark Andiam
Reply to  John Davies
10 months ago

Thank you for this thoughtful and helpful reflection; lest we forget that we do not possess the Spirit! By the way I am guessing that the damn spellchecker produced ‘Rheuma’. Pneuma (and its Hebrew equivalent Ruach) is such a crucial term for me — as an untutored young person, my mind was first opened to the metaphorical relation between spirit, breath and wind by +Stephen Verney’s autobiographical exploration of John’s gospel ‘Water into Wine’; which was itself foundational to my Confirmation, and thus an acceptance of my own charism (fleeting as it often seems).

Stanley Monkhouse
10 months ago

Not directly relevant to SS but certainly to safeguarding. Having watched “The sixth commandment” about Ben Field’s manipulating at least two elderly people near Buckingham, his murdering one of them, and his charming of at least one PCC, I wonder what lessons were learned by Oxford diocese vocations team about their (so he said) recommending him to a BAP.

Peter Owen
Admin
Reply to  Stanley Monkhouse
10 months ago

Oxford diocese have published some “Facts and corrections” to “The Sixth Commandment”. One is that “Field was never considered for ordination training”. See The Ben Field verdict. This also refers to the Lessons learned review that followed Ben Field’s sentencing.

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  Peter Owen
10 months ago

Thank you. As a former ADDO I know how insistent and deluded some aspirants can be. The checking of applicants needs to happen early.

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  Peter Owen
10 months ago

Peter, David Wilson’s book “A Plot to Kill: The notorious killing of Peter Farquhar, a story of deception and betrayal that shocked a quiet English town” published by Little, Brown Book Group 2022, tells a different story. On pp 212-213 (Kindle edition) one reads “Field had his first formal pre-ordination meeting with the Reverend Caroline Windley, the Diocesan Director of Ordinands, in April 2016. It was the Reverend Windley’s job to meet with prospective priests ‘over an extended period of time, to confirm that your calling is informed and realistic’. Then, ‘when the Director of Ordinands is satisfied that you… Read more »

Tony Bellows
Tony Bellows
Reply to  Stanley Monkhouse
9 months ago

It’s remarkable that  “Field was never considered for ordination training” as a “Facts and Corrections” is in need of correction itself. Clearly David Wilson did his homework, and none of those meetings he records seem to have come into the Oxford diocese report which seems remarkably like a whitewash intended to distance themselves from any potential vulnerabilities in the ordination system.

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