Reverend Paul Flowers and Satanic Panic

From the Manchester Evening News, January 2006:

SHOCK waves reverberated round the Langley estate this week as residents tried to come to terms with the revelations of the suffering of the parents and children involved in the false allegations of satanic abuse more than 15 years ago.

…This week a former Langley councillor, Robin Parker, told the Guardian that he tried to alert the then chairman of the Social services Committee, Councillor the Rev Paul Flowers, a clergyman, that something was going wrong.

Parker – a former Manchester City Council social services official – said: “I was a very new councillor in Rochdale at the time. I was approached by Langley councillors Kevin Hunt and Tony Heaford.

“They said that something was going very badly wrong and they were on the wrong track.”

He said it was apparent that the two social workers involved were fundamentalist Christians and that could be affecting their judgement.

“I went to the chairman of Social Services and said the two social workers were on a mission and could not be objective when they believed Satan was at work, but he rejected this.”

False accusations against parents in Rochdale were just one example of an international “Satanic panic” hysteria whipped up by Christian fundamentalist paperbacks and supposed experts, as I discussed here. Other reports describe Flowers as having been the “vice-chairman” rather than the chairman, but the context of the above suggests that it was Flowers who “rejected” the concerns that were raised.

Rev Flowers, however, was not a member of the “fundamentalist” Christian wing; rather, he seems to be a man of liberal religious views, openly gay and involved with drug- and HIV-related charities. Flowers emerged from the fiasco unscathed and went on to build a career within the cooperative movement, and his profile has been somewhat raised in the past few days (link added):

West Yorkshire Police officers have searched the Bradford home of former Co-op Bank chairman Paul Flowers.

…Mr Flowers, who chaired the bank from April 2010 until June this year, was filmed allegedly ordering cocaine and boasting about his use of other illegal drugs in a video published by the Mail on Sunday.

The Mail said he had been filmed earlier this month – days after being grilled by MPs on the Treasury Select Committee.

The former Bradford councillor, who has been suspended from both his church and the Labour Party, said he had been “wrong” and “stupid”.

Questions have been raised about Mr Flowers’ appointment as chairman of the Co-op Bank in 2010, and banking regulators will be questioned by MPs on the issue.

BBC business editor Robert Peston said that when Mr Flowers appeared before the committee of MPs on 6 November, he appeared to have “no grasp” of “basic” facts about the bank.

Twitter in the UK is currently awash with “Crystal Methodist” jokes. More pertinently, however, Flowers led the bank to disaster, with knock-on effects for the rest of the Cooperative Group. It seems that he was woefully unqualified for the job, and his blurb for a 2012 article in Brand Republic glosses over his lack of knowledge with meaningless PR-blather about “Thought Leadership credentials“.

Peston has a detailed account of his rise within the Co-op here, and it’s come to light just today that he resigned from a position as a trustee with the drugs charity Lifeline in 2004 due to an expenses probe. His appointment seems to have been the kind of insider-network stitch-up that so often determines senior appointments within the social sector and related businesses, and which allows incompetents to blunder from one position to another.

2 Responses

  1. Rochdale? It wasn’t Satan, it was Cyril Smith!

  2. There is certainly something bery rotten infecting today’s Methodist Church if they allow disgusting characters like Paul Flowers to become ordained ministers.

    I was brought up as a Methodist, and the first three ministers who I can remember were all great men, sincere Christians and and indeed inspirational figures. After this however the situation quickly went downhill. The next two ministers we had were both extreme leftists who wore their politics on their sleeves, and congragation numbers quickly declined. The second of these was quite open in using pornographic terms in front of ladies, and under him church attendances shrunk so low that both churches under his control closed just a few years later.

    There is an old gag that the Methodist Church consists of Conservatives in the pews ministered over by socialist clergy. In my own experience there is much truth in this observation – but in Flowers’s case there was certainly something far more sinister involved than just being a socialist!

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