The senior pastor of Soul Survivor Watford “failed to act” on three separate occasions concerning safeguarding allegations, according to a letter sent to those who contributed to the Church of England’s recent investigation into Mike Pilavachi.
Premier understands that one of the allegations relates to the massaging of a former intern by Pilavachi that was disclosed to Rev Andy Croft in 2016. The Church of England parish safeguarding handbook states that any safeguarding concerns witnessed or reported must be recorded and shared with the parish safeguarding officer and diocesan safeguarding officer.
The letter from Zena Marshall, deputy director of casework for the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team (NST), said the allegations concerning Rev Croft were “found to be substantiated” by its internal investigation, which concluded last Wednesday.
In a statement sent to Premier, Rev Croft said: “I am very sorry that my actions have contributed in any way to the pain others are experiencing.
“The last seven months have been extremely difficult for all those involved as they have come to terms with the damage caused by Mike Pilavachi’s abuse over many years and I want to pay my own tribute to the courage of those who have come forward. I also have to acknowledge that I have been deeply affected personally by Mike’s behaviour.
“I cannot comment further at this point because of ongoing processes but will at some point, I hope, be able to make a much fuller statement.”
Rev Croft has been suspended since June under HR processes while the safeguarding investigation into Mike Pilavachi is ongoing. Soul Survivor Watford said at the time of his stepping back that “new information” regarding the senior pastor had come to light during the inquiry related to the handling of allegations that were raised before the NST investigation began.
Although the NST found shortcomings in Rev Croft’s own safeguarding practice, there was no suggestion that the pastor poses a risk of direct abuse to adults or children.
The first stage of the investigation into Mike Pilavachi reported that the founder of Soul Survivor Watford had engaged in “a form of emotional and psychological abuse characterised by a systematic pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour in a religious context”. This led to inappropriate relationships, the physical wrestling of youths and massaging of young male interns, added the Church of England statement.
Soul Survivor Watford has commissioned an independent review of the safeguarding allegations to be led by Fiona Scolding KC. This is separate to the internal Church of England investigation and a full report will be published at the end.
Reporting by Megan Cornwell and Kelly Valencia