The founder of the New Frontiers church network, Terry Virgo, has apologised after his message of support on Soul Survivor Mike Pilavachi’s resignation post sparked criticism on social media.
Earlier this week, the 83-year-old pastor told Pilavachi of his continuous prayers in response to the first post the Soul Survivor founder had made since an investigation into safeguarding allegations against him was launched in April.
Soul Survivor Watford, the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team (NST) and the Diocese of St Albans are looking at recent and historic allegations against Pilavachi. They say the claims are not criminal nor relate to clergy disciplinary matters.
“Continuing to pray for you Mike, deeply grateful for the massive blessing you’ve been in countless New Frontiers settings,” Virgo wrote on Pilavachi’s post.
Evangelist J. John also left a lengthy comment praising Pilavachi’s ministry. He included a quote from Dr Caroline Leaf, a clinical neuroscientist, about people's tendency to judge without hearing the whole story. The quote read: “Some people never ask for your side of your story, because the side that they heard, fits the description of how they want to feel about you”.
Both comments were met with anger and frustration on social media, with many describing their words as “despicable” and “rage-inducing” and users arguing both church leaders had failed to address the “obvious & documented problems being investigated”.
In his apology post, Virgo wrote that he was “shocked and saddened” that his comment had been regarded by some “as an unqualified endorsement of whatever he is found to have been doing”.
He said: “I was saddened when I read Mike Pilavachi's message regarding his removal from Soul Survivor.
“Like many people, I have been blessed by his remarkable ministry. Also like most people I have been uninformed of the situation he is facing. I have never been involved in Soul Survivor. I've not been following any online conversation that might have been taking place, nor have I studied secular newspaper reports…
“I simply prayed for him out of sympathy for his removal and wrote to tell him of my prayers. I have been shocked and saddened that my prayers have been regarded by some as an unqualified endorsement of whatever he is found to have been doing. I have been ignorant of what that is and I thought everyone was until the enquiry clarifies.”
Virgo also referenced Matt Redman’s latest comments on his time at Soul Survivor, saying Redman’s statement had “shed light” on his own “ignorance”.
The Grammy-award-winning singer shared this week that he had contributed to the current safeguarding investigation and accused the church’s leadership of having “ignored, patronised or gaslit” him and his wife, Beth.
Redman, who worked alongside Pilavachi for eight years, further stated that while he understood that some people are having a “tough time believing the various accusations”, people should also acknowledge those who have come forward with allegations.
“There are victims here – and the number of people who have come forward to the safeguarding investigation is now a loud and clear alarm bell that cannot be ignored,” Redman wrote.
The New Frontiers founder concluded his apology post: “I still don't know what the findings will prove, but my sympathies certainly lie with any who have been troubled or traumatised. They should certainly be fully listened to and afforded the dignity they deserve. I await the results of the enquiry.
“If my prayers for Mike have caused dismay, I'm sorry.”