Independent review

Pioneer's Response to the Independent Review

23rd May 2024

The independent review of Pioneer’s past and present ministry practices led by Christian Safeguarding Services (CSS) has been published as an Executive Summary here and as a full report here. As Pioneer Trust we accept the report and its findings and we are grateful to CSS for the diligent and thorough manner in which they have conducted this review. The review confirmed some things we already knew and revealed some things we didn’t know, providing a much fuller picture for us.

We wanted the review to help us listen and learn. CSS heard from over 30 individuals, most of whom reported being hurt and harmed by inappropriate and damaging ministry practices through their contact with Pioneer. To those respondents we want to thank them for their bravery in telling their stories and offer a heartfelt and sober apology. We are so sorry.
We hope that having your story heard, believed, and validated – together with this apology and a commitment to implementing the report’s recommendations – goes some way towards a measure of healing.

The report provides evidence of a pattern where Gerald Coates’ ministry and pastoral practice fell well short of expected standards and where appropriate boundaries were not respected. This accelerated in the last decade of Gerald’s life, after he had handed on the leadership of Pioneer and after he had written a book called ‘Sexual Healing’ which then became a significant focus of his ministry. 

The report reveals a clear pattern of Gerald sharing a prophetic word with a young man and then seeking to establish ongoing contact. If a subsequent meeting occurred, he would greet them with an uninvited ‘holy kiss’ (a kiss on the cheek) and then quickly move into a conversation where he would ask uninvited and detailed questions about issues around pornography and masturbation. Most of Gerald’s interactions were with young adults he met at conferences and other public gatherings but on occasions he used social media to connect and share prophetic words. There were two, possibly three in their mid teens and one aged 12-13 years old, who it appears was contacted directly via social media. This behaviour would, both now and at the time that it occurred, be regarded as a safeguarding concern that should have been raised with the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO).

We also acknowledge the report’s statement that it is important to recognise that due to Gerald’s death in 2022, his voice could not be heard and it is therefore impossible to judge his motives and intentions.

As Pioneer Trust, we attempted to address the concerns that we knew about, which extended over a number of years as we sought and followed advice from Thirtyone:eight (formerly CCPAS) our external independent safeguarding advisors. However, we acknowledge that our efforts and interventions as Pioneer to address and modify Gerald’s behaviour were not as effective as we hoped and were ultimately insufficient. Again we offer our sincere apologies in this respect, and we commit to learning from this situation.

We recognise the real challenge to all of us in leadership roles within the Church as we humbly assess our own failures and areas of brokenness and welcome the necessary accountability and challenge to prevent any harmful or unhealthy cultures or ministry practices around us. 

As a board of trustees and as a National Leadership Team, we are committed to learning from and implementing the review’s recommendations. We have already begun to work on our policies and procedures to ensure the highest standards of safeguarding are in operation across the activities of Pioneer Trust itself and not just within the churches connected with us.  We also need to do some work around bringing greater clarity and definition on the relationship and responsibilities between Pioneer and its member churches

We are praying that all these learnings will help Pioneer in all of its expressions to reflect more of the nature and character of Christ.

Ness Wilson [Leader of Pioneer’s National Leadership Team]
Steve Clifford [Chair of the Board of Trustees]

Interim statement on the independent review of Pioneer’s culture and practices

11th December 2023

We have recently received an update from Christian Safeguarding Services (CSS) on the progress of the review they are undertaking on Pioneer’s past and present culture, policies, practices, and safeguarding arrangements. The review opened following the announcement on 18th August, inviting anyone with relevant information or concerns to come forward. The formal deadline for submissions has now closed. However should anyone wish to make contact with CSS up until the end of December they can still email them on

Interviews are taking place and will continue throughout January 2024.  CSS has communicated that nothing has emerged that requires immediate action. The next stage will be analysing the information that has been gathered, reviewing documentation, policies and procedures. CSS expects to produce the final report with their findings and recommendations by mid April which will be made available to the public. CSS have assured us this is a realistic timetable for working with such a broad and comprehensive review.

Pioneer Trust launch an independent review to consider past and present ministry practices

18th August 2023

The board of Pioneer Trust are launching a broad and independent review — led by Christian Safeguarding Services (CSS) — to identify and address any failures or deficiencies in their past and present culture, policies, practices, and safeguarding arrangements. The review requests anyone with relevant information or concerns to come forward to have their voices heard. The trustees value and appreciate the bravery of those who are able and willing to contribute to this review. Paul Harrison, who is leading the review at CSS, will handle all matters with the utmost care and sensitivity.  

The aim of the review includes (1) providing an independent and safe channel for anyone with safeguarding or cultural concerns connected to Pioneer Trust (or individuals acting on their behalf), (2) identifying and understanding the impact, scope and prevalence of harm caused, and (3) implementing recommended changes and improvements to practice. 

The trustees initiated the review when a complaint was raised in July 2023 about their late founder and former Network Leader, Gerald Coates, who led the network up until 2009. The current concerns relate to approaches to ministry and pastoral practice and do not meet the threshold for referral to statutory services (e.g., the police or social care).  There is no indication that any person engaging with Pioneer Trust is currently at risk, nor are the trustees aware of any concerns about the conduct of current staff or members of its leadership team. For more information on the scope of the review, click here.

Pioneer Trust and CSS are committed to following the evidence and considering any information that comes to light. We recognise that the wellbeing and safety of everyone who engages with Pioneer Trust is critical to our ability to serve our relational network. We are also committed to being accountable for any harm done and transparent about the review and any actions taken as a result. The appeal for information relevant to this safeguarding review will run until mid-November, and the trustees will publish the results when the report is ready (updates will be given in that regard). 

If you have any relevant information for the review into the culture, practice or safeguarding of Pioneer Trust or individuals acting on their behalf, please get in touch by emailing or by completing this form here.