Thinking Anglicans

Soul Survivor suspends two more staff

Updated Friday 9 June

We reported previously on 13 May: Soul Survivor safeguarding complainants demand independent investigation

Today there is a further Soul Survivor Watford announcement:

8th June 2023

Please click here [see below] to read a statement from the National Safeguarding Team and Diocese of St Albans which explains why the Bishop of St Albans has requested that Andy Croft voluntarily withdraw from any ministry until the investigation is concluded. Please see below for a statement from the Soul Survivor Watford Trustees.

A statement from the Soul Survivor Watford Trustees

After receiving new information from the National Safeguarding Team (NST) investigation into Mike Pilavachi, the non-staff Trustees of Soul Survivor Watford have decided to suspend two members of staff under HR processes: Senior Pastor, Andy Croft and Assistant Pastor, Ali Martin.  The information submitted to the investigation relates to concerns over the handling of allegations that were raised before the NST investigation began.

While the investigation continues, the Trustees have asked Rev. Jon Stevens (Executive Pastor) to take on the interim leadership of Soul Survivor Watford, with senior support from Rev. Canon Tim Lomax (Bishop’s Visitor).

We are thankful to all those who have proactively shared their concerns with the NST and recognise that each of them has shown great courage in sharing their experiences.

 If you would like to speak to anyone regarding this investigation, please be assured that any concerns raised will be treated with the utmost sensitivity and appropriate support can be given. Please contact Jeremy Hirst at the Diocesan Safeguarding Team at safeguarding@stalbans.anglican.org or Judith Renton, Ian Bowles or Anthony Clarke at the National Safeguarding Team at safeguarding@churchofengland.org who will listen to what you have to say.

For other concerns, please contact thirtyone:eight on 0303 003 1111, or the Safe Spaces helpline on 0300 303 1056.

The NST statement mentioned above reads as follows:

Update on Mike Pilavchi investigation

08/06/2023

Statement from National Safeguarding Team and Diocese of St Albans

Soul Survivor Watford Trustees have announced today the suspension under HR processes of two serving members of staff following information submitted to the investigation into Mike Pilavachi which is being run jointly by the diocese of St Albans and the National Safeguarding Team, NST, according to House of Bishops guidance.  This information relates to the handling of allegations and concerns raised in the Mike Pilavachi case and we cannot say anymore while this new strand of investigation runs its course. The Bishop of St Albans has requested that the senior pastor voluntarily withdraw from any ministry until the investigation is concluded.  Support is being offered to all those involved.

Earlier, the suspension of Mike Pilavachi had been announced on 20th of May (scroll down on that page) and the original announcement of an investigation was made on 2nd April.

The Church Times has this report: Soul Survivor suspends two pastors over handling of Pilavachi allegations.

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Susanna (no ‘h’)
Susanna (no ‘h’)
11 months ago

According to the Church Times report, complaints were made about Mike Pilavachi to senior members of Soul Survivor in 2004 and 2006.
He was not ordained – by an accelerated process – until 2012.
He was ‘asked to step back’ in May this year , nearly 20 years later
and it has taken a further few weeks to ‘suspend ‘ two pastors under HR processes.
Sadly is difficult to believe things would have suddenly speeded up like this if two broadsheets had not become involved

Tim
Tim
11 months ago

Surely Soul Survivor should be closed down until investigations are completed. There is something seriously amiss here and the latest suspensions do little to assure that vulnerable people are safe.

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
11 months ago

My prediction is that everyone involved in Soul Survivor, down to the people that made the tea, knew. The senior management all knew, and either dismissed it as “Mike being Mike” or told themselves that it was OK. This is another of those cases in which we are expected to believe that a predator was able to abuse large numbers of teenagers and swear them to such binding silence, and maintain such perfect operational security, that no-one in a position to do anything knew. Of course, this is completely impossible: conspiracies are never as efficient as they are in Dan… Read more »

Realist
Realist
11 months ago

I’m not going to comment on the specifics of the suspensions, but surely I can’t be alone in seeing the hideous irony in Croft Jr being suspended because of (as yet) unproven allegations about his mishandling of disclosures, and +Croft Snr remaining defiantly in active ministry in spite of proven allegations about his mishandling of disclosures. Are the Archbishops, House of Bishops, their entourage of inept overpaid advisers, and indeed +Croft himself really so thick skinned, or arrogant, that they cannot see both the moral cess pit of this situation and indeed, for those who are more reputationally minded, how… Read more »

Last edited 11 months ago by Realist
Susanna (no ‘h’)
Susanna (no ‘h’)
Reply to  Realist
11 months ago

And all that you point out is why the Solicitor for the complainants wrote his letter to the Telegraph of 13th May 2013 saying that they had no trust in the CofE to carry out an independent enquiry – see this site also for 13th May for the full text.
It is hard to believe that the updated press release above completely ignores this, thanks everyone who have ‘proactively shared ‘ their concerns and churns out the phone numbers for the St Albans Diocesan Safeguarding team and the National Safeguarding team.
So much for learning to listen better….

Matthew Ineson
Matthew Ineson
Reply to  Realist
11 months ago

Thick skinned. The word ‘rape ‘ means nothing.
Steven Croft and co think themselves far more important than a victim of rape.
If Steven Croft has nothing to hide why not step aside and encourage a genuinely independent investigation?

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
11 months ago

Executive, Senior and Assistant Pastors. It all seems very hierarchical; interesting too that the the two junior pastors are the ones suspended, there may of course be very good reasons for that, but noteworthy that the executive director of pastoral care is not included. I wonder how the responsibilities were allocated amongst the team.

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
Reply to  Fr Dean
11 months ago

The careful hierarchy, with grades and reporting lines and assistants and seniors rather makes a nonsense of the claims of it being a family, too.

Whereas carefully constructed structures and opportunities for preferment and promotion would on the other hand be a very effective way of controlling people in a cult.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Interested Observer
11 months ago

‘Whereas carefully constructed structures and opportunities for preferment and promotion would on the other hand be a very effective way of controlling people in a cult.’

Sounds rather like Anglicanism, actually.

Sarah Apetrei
Sarah Apetrei
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
11 months ago

Well, quite, Tim. Labelling SS a cult is a good way to distance its problems from the wider church and the inherent risks involved in the assumption of spiritual authority (not least ordained ministry). I don’t know how the “cult” designation fits an organisation which over 30 years has seen tens of thousands attend its festivals; influenced the worship of hundreds of churches; shaped a generation of young Christians, many of them Anglicans. The shock waves from this are huge and don’t just shake ground zero (the Watford church itself).

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Sarah Apetrei
11 months ago

Having watched a few services from this cult on YouTube, I fail to see the attraction it has for young people who, surely, can’t swallow the naive nonsense preached by men in T-shirts. I’m also totally unable to perceive the supposed “charisma” of Mr Pilavachi.

David Foster
David Foster
Reply to  FrDavid H
11 months ago

You may fail to see the attraction to young people but it clearly worked. Your comment about men in T shirts deserves to be treated with contempt. It may surprise you that not everyone in the C of E shared your view of what constitutes holy worship, some of us are more tolerant of differing worship styles.

Liz Purnell
Liz Purnell
Reply to  David Foster
6 months ago

I agree with you David Foster.

Steve Boenke
Steve Boenke
Reply to  FrDavid H
8 months ago

Did Jesus wear a dog collar?

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
Reply to  Sarah Apetrei
11 months ago

I don’t know how the “cult” designation fits an organisation which over 30 years has seen tens of thousands attend its festivals; influenced the worship of hundreds of churches; shaped a generation of young Christians, many of them Anglicans. Scientology is most certainly a cult, and is vastly larger than Soul Survivor. The presence of a single cult leader around whom everything revolves is a bigger tell than scale. What marks this out as a cult, even though it was notionally Anglican, is that this is an organisation with a lot of people whose loyalty was personally to Pilavachi rather… Read more »

Last edited 11 months ago by Interested Observer
Susannah Clark
Reply to  Sarah Apetrei
11 months ago

I guess there is a very fine dividing line between a ‘revolution of the heart’, and things running away in some people and places in a kind of hyperventilation of enthusiasm and puritanical zeal. Much of Christian calling is very basic and mundane caring for (and service of) others. Sort of everyday life, only doing it with with selfless kindness, even though the chores involved in that may seem dull. So when a Christian leader exhorts young people to open their hearts to ‘the revolution’ there is a great responsibility to hold back eager young hearts from seeking the ‘experiences’… Read more »

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
Reply to  Susannah Clark
11 months ago

“or (for young people) of feeling they are a ‘remnant’ that needs to draw close to those leaders, in” That sounds rather like the conception of a Leninist Vanguard Party, a cadre of more “advanced” people who set out to educate and lead the proletariat. Vanguard parties have a sad history within the British left, with unsurprisingly the two most well known — the SWP and the WRP — both turning out to not only harbour, but defend, sexual abuse. The more recent implosion of the SWP has not yet finished and the narrative is still contested, but the earlier… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Interested Observer
11 months ago

From experience, ‘remnant’ terminology is pretty familiar in a lot of charismatic / restorationist / nonconformist theology. The ‘true church’ is seen as a ‘faithful remnant’, God’s committed ‘little flock’ fighting a wider hostility of a sin-enriched world and an apostate church. Yes, been there, done that, but didn’t buy the T shirt’.
Sadly I grew up with that as a youthful Christian, and found it very hard not to be sucked into it when it’s the prevailing culture. It is very closely associated with seeing the church as a ‘lifeboat’ or ‘called out’ community, rather than a broad one.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  John Davies
11 months ago

Unfortunately, rather than a lifeboat, this mindset sometimes tends to end up a ghetto – a ghetto of ‘beleagured’ faithful remnant… the pure ones… in a sort of mental stockade, with a very negative view of the outside world, as totally dark. Of course, yes, there is evil in the world, but there is also goodness. The worst version of this ‘remnant’ mindset longs for the Last Days and even Armageddon.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Susannah Clark
11 months ago

Absolutely bang on target there. Rather like the dwarves fate in ‘The Last Battle’, where C S Lewis depicted them trapped in their little laager, quarrelling bitterly among themselves and thinking they were the only ones there – and that was in heaven, for pity’s sake! I am so glad that the Lord helped me reject that sort of mindset.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Susannah Clark
11 months ago

Hullo, Sarah. I’m interested to note you refer to the Holy Spirit as ‘She’. Is this because the Hebrew word ‘ruach’ (spirit) is feminine in gender, rather than neutral? For that reason, in personal and private prayer, I will sometimes address the Trinity as “Father God, Brother Christ and Sister Spirit” or use the term ‘Sister Spirit’ as a direct bidding. The novel ‘The Shack’ did something similar, remember, depicting the character as a kind of hologramme, visible until you looked directly at her. Nice analogy, I thought. And, like you, I don’t know the fellow in any way at… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  John Davies
11 months ago

Thanks for the comment John, and the reminder of ‘The Shack’ which I found a very sweet story, not least because it framed God in quite a domestic setting, and I think we sometimes risk losing that context, among others. God is not just some warrior King. I actually use the term ‘She’ (sometimes) out of awkwardness – more because I don’t regard God as just masculine. Then again I don’t regard God as just feminine either. Truth is, like everyone else, I don’t really know how to apply gender to God. On this broad topic, I have put some… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Susannah Clark
11 months ago

Thank you very much, Susannah for those very encouraging and much appreciated words. I sometimes wonder how I come across or whether I’m getting out of my depth and contributing to this sort of public debate is a learning curve. (I served my literary apprenticeship writing off-beat ghost thrillers and articles for model railway magazines. ) I can only speak of my own experiences and bewilderments, after all. I honestly don’t believe you can apply human genders to God – the Divine is way beyond anything of our human understanding, and the Bible contains references that use both male and… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Susannah Clark
11 months ago

PS

I’ve copied and saved your original comment, so’s I can give it the study it deserves. There are things in there which seem very important to reread and receive through them. Thanks.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  John Davies
11 months ago

Thanks John. I value your generally non-dogmatic approach, and people like you remind me that much of faith is about ‘trust in God in the context of uncertainty’. After all, we are contemplating an often numinous, sometimes unfathomably mysterious God. Because of this, in religious debate, it may be wiser to talk ‘with’ people (and try to draw from each other) than talking ‘at’ people. I just like your manner and approach.

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
11 months ago

This is what happens when disclosures are not addressed and followed up when they are first made. Pilavachi was untouchable, the all-powerful leader. The default position was that any concerns were never to be believed. The reason of course was to protect the institution, regardless of the consequences for individuals. Even the briefest study of the report and accounts of Soul Survivor Watford, a charity the subject of a Bishop’s Mission Order (BMO), reveals that safeguarding barely gets a mention. In the accounts for the year ended 31 March 2022 there are only two references to safeguarding: it is stated that ‘all trustees are **recommended** (my… Read more »

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
Reply to  Anthony Archer
11 months ago

That seems like a very good summary of the situation, Anthony. What worries me, looking at its personnel, is as you say the lack of external scrutiny: the pastors, the executive and the non-execs are almost without exception people deeply connected to Soul Survivor Watford, and there is unlikely to be robust challenge to the actions of a charismatic CEO from a team that largely owe not only their livelihoods but their careers to him.

Charles Read
Charles Read
Reply to  Anthony Archer
11 months ago

Yes – we have let Fresh Expressions become too independent. We have learned nothing from the 1990s NOS scandal- the parallels are chilling. (Some) Bishops and others have been dazzled by the outward (numerical) success of things like NOS and SS and have done scrutiny light. All FEx should be embedded in the parish system so they can be properly monitored and governed.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
Reply to  Charles Read
11 months ago

I completely agree. Dazzled by outward numerical success indeed. Sadly faced with accelerating numerical decline, and not knowing what to do, they look to initiatives like this meanwhile the steady life of parishes is starved.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Charles Read
11 months ago

Michael Harper, Tom Smail and David Watson coined a phrase ‘to be real it must be local’ when hoping to spread the charismatic renewal message beyond the confines of the conference gatherings. Their whole vision was for it to be embedded in the local parishes, but unfortunately that didn’t quite happen. Too many people didn’t like it, want it or believe it, and so it remained the interest of a limited number of enthusiasts. Unfortunately, after their departure, it also became a happy hunting ground for extremists, downright cranks and experience hunters, which, personally speaking, led to its demise. I… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  John Davies
11 months ago

Very good point. We are called to live in community. Even the Holy Trinity is a community in a way. And I believe some of the gentlest manifestations of charismatic renewal took place in local church contexts.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Susannah Clark
11 months ago

Spot on, Susannah. Sadly there seemed to be a lot of hype surrounding the extravagant claims made in some charismatic circles which became self distructive. They certainly don’t happen to ordinary joes like me, and would only lead to profound spiritual frustration if I expected them to. In my own, admittedly limited experience, the genuine experience of the Holy Spirit is far more low key, quiet and ‘naturally supernatural’, and you’re more likely to find that at a local level, where you’re with people you know and, hopefully, trust, than in a big gathering. I’m no psychologist, but there is… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
Reply to  Charles Read
11 months ago

If there were a risk-aware system in the Church of England we might find ways to avoid loading significant and possibly unnecessary compliance costs on low risk activities and face the need to be more robust about high risk situations. In particular the risks involved in system override decisions should be reviewed, and those using their authority to override systems should be held properly to account for poor decisions or inadequate supervision and monitoring.

Lordhavemercy
Lordhavemercy
11 months ago

Before being a BMO, there was even more nepotism in the 90s and early 2000 trustees. The SSW charity had no spiritual oversight. Or accountability. David Pytches had retired, and it was Mikes mates running virtually eveything.

M Mem
M Mem
Reply to  Lordhavemercy
10 months ago

There was previous charity and then Bishop of Maidstone was involved.

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