Soul Survivor hires new associate pastor following Mike Pilavachi's abuse investigation

Mike Pilavachi speaks at Soul Survivor youth conference in 2017.
Mike Pilavachi speaks at Soul Survivor youth conference in 2017. | YouTube/Soul Survivor

The Soul Survivor Watford in the United Kingdom has hired a new associate pastor in the aftermath of an abuse scandal that led to the ouster of its founder, Mike Pilavachi. 

The Rev. Simon Nicholls will take on the new role as associate pastor, taking the reins from the former associate pastor, The Rev. Andy Croft, who departed last year due to his ties to an ongoing investigation of Pilavachi. 

The ministry announced Nicholls' appointment during its services on May 12. Nicholls will assume the position in September. 

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"Many of you will know of Si as he used to be part of the church family until eight years ago when he left to train for ordination in the Church of England," a statement emailed to supporters reads. 

Pilavachi was investigated last year by the Church of England based on allegations of "inappropriate intimate relationships" and behavior with young people, which ultimately led to his resignation.

Pilavachi, 66, launched Soul Survivor in 1993. The ministry's summer festivals were attended by tens of thousands of teenagers from across the United Kingdom. The festivals ended in 2019 as the ministry shifted its focus to events for people of all ages from its church in Watford. 

The Church of England's investigation into Pilavachi was launched after The Telegraph reported allegations that he engaged in "inappropriate intimate relationships" with young people participating in Soul61, a gap-year project that trains young adults as disciples. Critics also accused Pilavachi of running "a cult" in which young men were encouraged to partake in full-body oil massages and wrestling matches.

Croft was accused of failing to act on the allegations on three occasions, but the charges against him were dismissed. Although the diocese cleared him to begin serving ministry again, he chose to step down

"I'm really looking forward to taking up my new role and bringing all that I have learned and been moulded by over the past eight years to add in to the mix at Soul Survivor Watford," said Nicholls in a statement. 

"As a family, we are excited about being part of your wonderful community and playing our small part in seeing Watford brought alive in the name of Jesus; partnering with what you're already doing to love God, love people and love the world," he continued.

Nicholls was a participant in the 10-month gap-year program now known as Soul 61 in 2001. After taking a year away, Nicholls worked in the congregation as an operations manager starting in 2002 until 2012, according to Premier. From 2012 to 2014, Nicholls led the social justice outfit of Soul Survivor, known as Soul Action. 

The reverend trained for ordination in the Church of England starting in 2016 and has worked as an associate pastor in Birmingham and East London, Premier notes.

Nicole VanDyke is a reporter for The Christian Post. 

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