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New Wine 'shocked and disappointed' at Mike Pilavachi investigation findings

by Kelly Valencia

New Wine has issued a statement in response to the damning findings of the internal investigation into Soul Survivor's founding pastor, Mike Pilavachi.

The organisation, whose family festivals took place in the same location as Soul Survivor, described the investigation's results as "shocking and deeply disappointing" and acknowledged the courage of those who shared their stories with the Church of England's National Safeguarding Team (NST).

The statement read: "We want to express our sadness and empathy with the pain so many are feeling and recognise and commend the courage of the victims, those who have bravely shared their stories, and those seeking to make the church safer for all."

However, the choice of words has sparked anger and frustration on social media - more because of what they lack than what they include.  Many victims and former attendees of both festivals argue the statement falls short of what was needed in failing to acknowledge the close connection between Mike Pilavachi and the family church network.

Both the New Wine Festival and Soul Survivor Watford originated from St. Andrews Chorleywood, which was then led by Rev David Pytches, and where Mike Pilavachi served as the leader of the youth ministry.

The first New Wine festival took place in Shepton Mallet in 1989, with Mike Pilavachi leading the work with young people. In 1993, St. Andrew's planted Soul Survivor church in Watford.  Mike Pilavachi was part of a group of eleven people, including the current chair of trustees, David Mitchell, and Ken and Jeannie Morgan. That same year, Soul Survivor launched its eponymous festival, which hosted 1,896 attendees in the first year. It grew rapidly and became a popular destination for up to 30,000 thousand Christian young people a year in the decades that followed.

For years, the leadership team at both festivals supported each other, with Mike Pilavachi, Matt Redman, and Beth Redman being regular attendees at both.  In 2014, Soul Survivor and New Wine published a songbook together.  It's also understood Rev Pytches continued to mentor Pilvachi for years after planting Soul Survivor.

In response to the widespread criticism of their initial statement, New Wine issued a subsequent apology, expressing deep regret for the "great pain, disappointment, and confusion" the statement had casued. 

It read: "We deeply regret that the statement implied we were trying to minimise the relationship between New and Mike Pilavachi. We are profoundly sorry. Our outmost priority is to cultivate a safe and nurturing environment where survivors' voices are not only heard but cherished with love and utmost respect. We want anyone from our community and anywhere throughout the Church, to feel supported and safe in being heard." 

This article has been edited to include New Wine's latest statement. 

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