Popular pastor and founder of Soul Survivor, Mike Pilavachi, used his spiritual authority to "control people," leading to "inappropriate relationships, the physical wrestling of youths, and massaging of young male interns," according to a report by the Church of England.
On Wednesday, the denomination's National Safeguarding Team and the Diocese of St. Albans published the conclusions of a four-month joint investigation into safeguarding concerns raised by several victims earlier this year. The report found that the substantiated concerns spanned 40 years from Pilavachi's time as a youth leader to the present day, both before and after his ordination in 2012.
"The overall substantiated concerns are described as an abuse of power relating to his ministry and spiritual abuse… 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," the investigation found.
The 65-year-old, who resigned from his associate pastor role at Soul Survivor Watford and renounced his minister's licence in July, cannot currently minister in the Church of England and is facing a separate investigation related to a clergy disciplinary matter post-ordination.
"This is an ongoing process, and no further details can be given until this has concluded," the statement continued.
Responding to NST's statement, Soul Survivor Watford has apologised for "the part Soul Survivor has played" and announced a full and independent review to be led by Fiona Scolding KC, with more details to be published in the coming weeks. The report of Ms Scolding's review will be published in full.
Soul Survivor Watford added: "We are deeply sorry to all those people who have been victims of spiritual, emotional, and psychological abuse under Mike's leadership through a systematic pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour.
"We are saddened that these behaviours happened in a context that should have provided safety and spiritual support. We are committed to learning lessons from what has happened and to put in place further practices and procedures that will seek to ensure this kind of behaviour does not happen in the future."
The NST report also found allegations against senior pastor Andy Croft that he failed to act were substantiated, and he will remain suspended, while assistant Pastor Ali Martin, who was also suspended as the investigation continued, will be returning to her role after allegations against her were not found to be substantiated.
In July, Pilavachi broke his silence to share a message on his social media platforms announcing his resignation and said he "seeks forgiveness from any whom I have hurt".
At the time, he said: "I have, on advice, made no comment on the allegations and will not make any further public comment as I do not believe it would be good for anyone if I took part in a trial by media or social media. I pray God's blessing on the Church. It has been a privilege and joy to serve these past 30 years."