A new podcast from Premier Christianity promises to shed light on the scandal surrounding Mike Pilavachi in order to help the Church heal and move forward. Here’s what you need to know about how and why we are covering this story

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The trailer for Soul Survivors is available now. Listen at premier.plus or on your preferred podcast platform

In September, the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team concluded that the founder of Soul Survivor, Rev Canon Mike Pilavachi, used 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”.

How is it possible that someone who seemed to be so close to God and who brought thousands to Christ, was also capable of serious harm? And how did Mike’s behaviour lie under the radar for so long? Those were some of the questions we asked ourselves when Premier Christianity first started investigating this story.

What is Soul Survivors?

Soul Survivors is a new multi-episode podcast hosted by Megan Cornwell, which shares the stories of those who had direct experience of working and serving with Rev Canon Mike Pilavachi at Soul Survivor Watford.

The series will explore the allegations against Rev Mike and analyse what they mean for Soul Survivor and the wider Church. We will discuss the themes of safeguarding, spiritual abuse and more as we delve into the lessons to be learned.

Why is Premier Christianity magazine investigating Mike Pilavachi?

Tens of thousands of evangelical Christians in the UK have been deeply affected by the allegations surrounding Soul Survivor. As a magazine that serves this part of the Church, we feel a duty to report this story accurately and fairly. 

As journalists it is part of our job is to uncover truth and hold those in power to account. That’s why we have been investigating this story since the allegations first surfaced in April.

As a Christian media organisation we have an added responsibility to tell this story in a redemptive way that brings hope and healing for all involved. We are conscious of holding grace and truth together as we present this story.

What does this mean for the Church?

From Ravi Zacharias to Mark Driscoll to Jean Vanier, Christianity has been rocked by scandals involving its leaders in recent years. While each situation is unique – and involves different factors specific to that context and individual – it’s incumbent on us as the Church to look at the hard stories, to mourn with those who mourn and to make restitution.

Our hope and prayer is that by bringing together leading thinkers of faith to help identify where we are going wrong and why, this podcast will be of great service to the Church.

What about forgiveness?

Forgiveness for wrongdoing is a central tenet of our Christian faith, but so too is justice and repentance. We believe that in order to learn the lessons from Soul Survivor, we first need to sit in the place of grief, lament, confusion and betrayal, as we hear from our brothers and sisters who are hurting and confused. Only then can we move to a place of understanding, healing and hope.

What about the formal investigation?

Premier Christianity waited until the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team reported its findings in September before releasing the trailer for Soul Survivors. We are committed to and supportive of the wider Church inquiry and we see our work as complementary, not contradictory.

How has Mike Pilavachi responded to the allegations against him?

Mike resigned his position as associate pastor of Soul Survivor Watford in July along with his licence to officiate in the Diocese of St Albans. In a statement posted on social media – and then later deleted – he said: “I have taken this step because the Church needs to heal and I have realised that my continued presence will hinder that process. I seek forgiveness from any whom I have hurt during the course of my ministry.

“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.”

Premier Christianity has reached out to Mike, and an invitation remains open for an interview for the podcast.

Aren’t you fixated on the bad news, what about all the good news stories?

Premier Christianity magazine has been reporting on the good news story of Soul Survivor for many decades, including a celebratory cover story when the festival finished. We acknowledge that God has worked through the events, and are committed to telling that part of the story. So in episode one of Soul Survivors you will hear stories from those who were healed, saved and ministered to at the festivals and through the church.

We are also committed to sharing the positive stories of God at work through Soul Survivor in a way that parts of the mainstream press has shown an unwillingness to do. This does not make us exempt from the responsibility to shed light on the darker sides of the ministry too.

We are committed to sharing the whole story and we hope you will consider the podcast in its entirety.

Isn’t it too soon to cover this story?

We think it’s crucial that the Church grapples with some of the wider issues represented by this story sooner rather than later. It won’t necessarily be an easy journey, but we believe it’s a necessary one.

The Bible says that the devil prowls around like a lion waiting for someone to devour, and we need to get better at identifying and rooting out sin – in our own lives and in our churches. The Bible also says that the gates of hell won’t prevail against the Church.  

Where can I listen to Soul Survivors?

Listen to Soul Survivors on Premier Plus.

It’s also available on Spotify, Apple or wherever you get your podcasts.

If you would like to share a story about Soul Survivor or Mike Pilavachi, please contact megan.cornwell@premier.org.uk or kelly.valencia@premier.org.uk.