THE Methodist Church has denied it ignored complaints about the
former chairman of the Co-op Bank, the Revd Paul Flowers (above),
who has been embroiled in a scandal after he was filmed allegedly
buying drugs. Mr Flowers was arrested on Thursday by West Yorkshire
Police as part of an investigation into "drugs supply", police
The exposé in the Mail on Sunday has led to a police
investigation of Mr Flowers's alleged purchases of crystal meth,
cocaine, ketamine, and of GHB. It has already led to the
resignation this week of the chairman of the Cooperative Group, Len
Wardle, who appointed Mr Flowers to the Bank in 2009. The Co-op is
now holding a "root-and-branch" review of its structure.
On Wednesday, the Methodist Church announced that it had
suspended Mr Flowers indefinitely. But the Church said that it
would wait until the police investigation and any court proceedings
had finished before conducting their own complaints process.
The Revd Gareth Powell, assistant secretary of the Methodist
Conference, denied that the Church had been slow to pick up on
complaints about Mr Flowers's behaviour.
He told Today on Radio 4 on Friday: "I don't think we were
incurious. The difficulty about this tragic case is the
extraordinary level of allegation and conjecture. It's very
difficult to distinguish between those concerns based on hard
evidence and those based on speculation. We cannot act on comments
on a person's behaviour without any firm evidence."
Mr Powell confirmed that disciplinary proceedings had been
opened after Mr Flowers had been convicted of gross indecency in a
public toilet in 1981; but the Church had decided he could remain
in his ministry. He admitted, however, the scandal had damaged the
reputation of the Church and its clergy.
"Inevitably some of the speculation has raised questions, as it
always does for the church, about the trustworthiness of
ministers," he said. "It is regrettable when the allegations made
against one minister tarnish the extremely good and honourable work
undertaken by all of our ministers. The actions now under public
scrutiny inevitably raise a question about the role of the
In a statement, Mr Flowers, a minister for 30 years, said: "This
year has been incredibly difficult, with a death in the family and
the pressures of my role with the Co-operative Bank. At the lowest
point in this terrible period, I did things that were stupid and
wrong. I am sorry for this, and I am seeking professional help, and
apologise to all I have hurt or failed by my actions."
He resigned the Co-operative Bank chairmanship in June. He had
overseen the takeover of the Britannia Building Society, and a
failed attempt to buy a number of Lloyds Bank branches. The moves
left the Co-op with a capital shortfall of £1.5 billion,
precipitating a rescue takeover which took the bank out of Co-op
control. The Government has announced it will hold an inquiry into
how Mr Flowers was deemed to be a suitable person to hold the
chairmanship of a bank.
He is trustee on the Methodist Church body that manages its
invested funds and property, and has worked with a number of