A group of individuals who raised safeguarding concerns related to Soul Survivor’s Mike Pilavachi has called for a “comprehensive, independent and transparent investigation”.
Last month, Soul Survivor Watford announced its founder was stepping down from ministry while non-criminal safeguarding concerns were investigated by the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team (NST).
Although neither the church nor the Diocese of St Albans published the nature of the allegations, they said it wasn’t a criminal investigation nor a clergy disciplinary matter.
Now, in a statement released through the head of abuse law and public inquiries at the law firm Slater and Gordon, Richard Scorer, the group is calling for an independent investigation into the allegations against Pilavachi, arguing they “don’t trust the church to mark its own homework”.
They also want an investigation into “the institutional response to those allegations” from Soul Survivor and the Church of England.
“Given the network of connections between Soul Survivor and the Church of England, we do not believe that any Church of England body, whether the Diocese of St Albans or the NST, can plausibly conduct an independent, objective and transparent investigation at this time,” the statement read.
For the alleged victims, there are “simply too many connections” between Soul Survivor and Church of England senior leadership to have “confidence in the independence and transparency of any church-run investigation”.
The statement concluded: “The days when churches could plausibly investigate themselves and mark their homework are long gone. Accordingly, we call upon the Church of England and specifically the CofE National Safeguarding Team (1) to accept that a trusted independent agency should be appointed to conduct this investigation (2) to engage with survivors in the selection of such an agency and the drafting of any terms of reference so that any investigation can be truly independent and have the confidence of survivors from the outset.”
The call comes days after the Church of England was told to apologise to a man sexually abused by a priest. An independent investigation stated the Church had failed the victim. Former Archbishop of York Lord John Sentamu questioned its findings but was later asked to step back from ministry over his role in the case.
A spokesperson for the Church of England said: "The investigation is being run entirely independently of Soul Survivor by safeguarding professionals from both the National Safeguarding Team and St Albans Diocese as per House of Bishops guidance."