A Watford church has suspended two of its pastors over the handling of allegations before a safeguarding investigation began.

Soul Survivor Watford, in Greycaine Road, suspended Rev Canon Mike Pilavachi as an employee on May 20, six weeks after it confirmed a Church of England investigation into safeguarding concerns relating to him had begun.

Yesterday (June 8), statements from Soul Survivor and the Church of England announced that The Bishop of St Albans asked senior pastor Andy Croft to voluntarily withdraw from all ministry until the investigation is concluded.

That day, he and assistant pastor Ali Martin were suspended by the church non-staff trustees under HR processes.

The suspensions follow “new information” from the National Safeguarding Team, investigating the allegations alongside the St Albans Diocesan Safeguarding Team.

In the latest statement from the Soul Survivor Watford Trustees, they said: “The information submitted to the investigation relates to concerns over the handling of allegations that were raised before the NST investigation began.”

Executive Pastor Rev. Jon Stevens will take on interim leadership of Soul Survivor Watford.

The trustees added: “We are thankful to all those who have proactively shared their concerns with the NST and recognise that each of them has shown great courage in sharing their experiences.”

When Mr Pilavachi was suspended, the church apologised for its handling of the matter and added that it is “determined that lessons are learned”.

It said: “The trustees of Soul Survivor Watford have suspended Mike Pilavachi as an employee with immediate effect while the formal independent investigation conducted by the National Safeguarding Team and St Albans Diocesan Safeguarding Team continues.

“It has become clear that this more decisive action should have been made earlier and we have acted to correct this now."

The church again encouraged anyone with concerns related to the investigation to contact the National Safeguarding Team or St Albans Diocesan Safeguarding Team.

When Mr Pilavachi first “stepped back” from all ministry, the investigation was described as being into "non-recent safeguarding concerns". At the end of April, the church confirmed “more recent allegations” had come to light since it began.

As well as the church Soul Survivor Watford, Mr Pilavachi also set up the Soul Survivor Christian youth festival.