The Church of England has found claims a Watford pastor carried out emotional and psychological abuse “substantiated”.

An internal church investigation that had been publicly announced in April has now concluded with guidance describing “a form of emotional and psychological abuse characterised by a systematic pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour in a religious context”.

Mr Pilavachi founded and is a former pastor for Soul Survivor Watford, a church in Greycaine Road. He also set up the Soul Survivor Christian youth festival.

It was found that he used his “spiritual authority” to control people and his “coercive and controlling behaviour” led to “inappropriate relationships, the physical wrestling of youths, and massaging of young male interns”.

When it was announced that Mr Pilavachi had stepped back from all ministry, a Soul Survivor statement specified that the investigation related to “non-recent safeguarding concerns”.

However, in May, the church confirmed that “more recent” allegations had come to light and the concerns that were substantiated by the investigation relate to conduct over 40 years, up to the current day.

The pastor has resigned his roles and the church is apparently “committed” to ensuring relevant safeguarding information is passed on if he were to minister elsewhere.

Soul Survivor and the wider church praised those who came forward and brought “abusive behaviour to light”.

The Watford church added that it was “deeply sorry” to the victims and “committed to learning lessons” including putting further practices in place.

Senior Pastor Revd Andy Croft remains suspended under HR processes after information over the handling of allegations made before the investigation began was revealed.

Read the full Church of England statement here.

Read the full Soul Survivor statement here.

The church said that safeguarding concerns raised about Assistant Pastor Ali Martin, who was also suspended at the same time as Mr Croft, were not substantiated and her suspension will be lifted.

Further, a complaint under the Clergy Discipline Measure has now been taken out by the church National Safeguarding team, which was involved in the investigation, and investigations relating to a former senior church leader linked to Soul Survivor festivals are ongoing.

Soul Survivor has commissioned Fiona Scolding KC to lead a full and independent review following the revelations.