Taking the Flak

During World War II, many bombers carrying out raids in Germany and other Nazi-occupied territories got shot at by anti-aircraft guns. Those bullets and shells were collectively called flak. Pilots had to have nerves of steel to fly into the hail of lead as they aligned their bomb sights on their targets. It is unsurprising that priests who get unabated criticism from their own faithful and clergy of other churches think of flak as an analogy. The hail hammers away and the blow succeed each other. Mostly, as with anti-aircraft fire, the ammunition would miss its target – but occasionally, a bullet would hit home, a critical component of the aircraft or a pilot.

Being a priest nowadays, and in just about every other period in history, doesn’t involve getting killed unless you are in some Islamic caliphate and liable to get your throat cut by some sadistic Englishman converted to Islam! Mostly, it is criticism and name-calling. That kind of flak undermines the morale and can bring a sensitive person to the brink of depression. It often happens. Having the love and support of other persons is a fundamental human need.

My Bishop reports on Facebook:

Recently I have been told that my presence in Canterbury has been dismissed by some of the local ‘mainstream’ clergy as simply playing dress-up. Since I have very little to do with the local Churches or clergy – other than to occasionally nod at each other in the street and say hello in passing – I don’t really know from first hand experience. It’s all very silly if it’s true, but the problem with second/third hand information, rumour and speculation is that it is so ‘willow-O’-the-wisp’ like, it bears no close scrutiny or, for that matter, cause to worry about it – but I have decided to throw my hands up and admit it’s true … well part of it any way … “dressing up”? They don’t know the half of it! lol

He then shows a photo with a number of frames showing his different ways of dressing, from his Bishop’s choir dress to a smart suit for working in the shop or going to town. I used to think that a priest should always be in clericals as a testimony to the world of the priest’s vocation and availability for ministry. The French Church after World War II was not wrong. We may be devotees of traditional Catholicism, but we have to live in the modern world. I too lived in the cocoon of Gricigliano, but realities awaited us after ordination and being sent to a parish.

I am not suit-and-tie like my Bishop, rather someone who has reverted to the ways of the early 1970’s and boyhood. Most of the time, I dress in casual clothes, and my hair is now shoulder length (about John Wesley’s length) – and growing… I wear my cassock and clerical suit for diocesan business in England and the very rare occasion when ministry in France would warrant it. Most of the time, the cassock is counter-productive and wakes up all the old prejudice against priests and the Church, which the paedophile priest scandal has hardly alleviated! All the same, I don’t hide my priestly calling. My fellow students and teaching staff at the musical school know I am a priest, as do the brave fishermen and sailors at my sailing club.

I take inspiration from my Bishop, by the way he adapts to all circumstances of life. Of course the ‘mainstream’ Anglicans would accuse him of being a fake bishop! I suppose that in a couple of hundred years, they will be as kind to our Church as they are to the Methodists. Let them fire their flak, and they will end up running out of ammunition!

Here is something my Bishop posted on Facebook. It needs to be reproduced here:


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20 Responses to Taking the Flak

  1. Lots to think about here; thinking outside the box is what you’ve always done best. We’re sacerdotalists, thus vestments and clericals, but fake religion is always about self, such as when dressing up becomes the point. (Wanting the respect given the clergy without doing the work to earn it, such as, just some examples, having a parish discern your calling, being approved by a bishop who runs a diocese with real congregations, and going to a seminary or through other training, really “reading for orders.”) The ministry exists to serve the church; the church doesn’t exist to please the minister!

    I like the rule for Roman Catholic priests the Council of Baltimore came up with for America: cassock and biretta on church grounds, black suit and Roman collar as streetwear. To which I’d add “suitably modified for the activity”: sports, off-duty, etc.

  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    These are sobering figures – it would be good to know the scope of Victor Marx’s definition of ‘pastor’, here, and the basis for these statistics. (Not that they are implausible, just, what exactly do they indicate?)

    As to “playing dress up”, are there any Orthodox Hierachs about of something like the mind of Meletios (as III, Archbishop of Athens (1918-20); as IV, Ecumenical Patriarch (27 Nov 1921-20 Sep 1923); as II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria (20 Aug 1926-28 July 1935) ), Damianos Patriarch of Jerusalem (1897-1931), Miron Cristea Patriarch of Romania (1925-39), and Cyril III Archbishop of Cyprus (11 Nov 1916- 16 Nov 1933), all of whom, in their day, recognized Anglican orders – and, if so, is anyone in the Continuum talking with them seriously? If not necessary, that would seem good ecumenism!

    • Orthodox recognition of Anglican orders was always on several conditions that have never been met, never absolute: unprotestantize the Evangelicals, drop the Articles, and then ask to be received into Orthodoxy. Then Anglican clergy, only the men, would be received in their orders.

      • William Tighe says:

        Cf. this very careful study by an Anglican Orthodoxophile Catholic (and former Methodist) Professor of Philosophy, H. A. Hodges (1905-1976):



        Hodges is clear that the Orthodox would expect Anglicans, or an Anglican church, fully to profess the Orthodox Faith, and then to seek to be admitted corporately to the Orthodox Communion on that basis. Then, and only then, would the Orthodox, by an exercise of Economia, accept Anglican clergy without reordaining them.

        I might add that here in North America most Orthodox jurisdictions accept Catholic clergy (Eastern or Latin) as clergy when received into Orthodoxy, although a few of them rebaptize, rechrismate and then reordain such clerical converts. Never, however, to my knowledge, has any Anglican clergyman who has become Orthodox been “accepted in his Orders” without reordination.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        What little I’ve read in the way of official statements (e.g., transcribed from The Christian East, vol. IV, 1923), did not specify any of those matters, except with some reference to the last, looking to the possibility of (I presume male: all predating any pretention of any woman having been ordained) Anglican clergy being received in their orders.

        Can you recommend any (online) resources for further reading? So far, beyond such substantial transcribed quotations, I’ve only ever run into one or two interesting looking older, ‘background’ works at Internet Archive…

    • At the risk of allowing Orthodox Blow-out material to spill over here, I would say that Anglican continuers seem to be disposed to talk with various Orthodox clergy. However, the evidence points to there being little reciprocation from their side. Otherwise there would be more “successful” communities around the world. Fr Dale knows more about it than I do. This side of the Atlantic, there is no point in approaching the Orthodox without wanting to “convert”. Most of us are not interested, otherwise that is what we would have done.

      This post and the comments are not to be an extension to the Orthodox Blow-out Department.

      We exist in our own right. The ACC does not exist as a “waiting room” for people wanting to be Orthodox or Roman Catholics. We are what we are and have no reason to do anything other than what we are doing. That was an important lesson to learn from the TAC as events happened from 2007 to 2012.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        “This post and the comments are not to be an extension to the Orthodox Blow-out Department.” Certainly never my intention: my apologies if I lured people into laying a sidetrack!

        The background is, that I was musing over the fact that “the ‘mainstream’ clergy” whose Province, according to Metropolitan Hilarion’s Department of External Church Relations, have put themselves out of consideration, should characterize as “playing dress up” those who are, in contrast to themselves, still holding what those recognized by Patriarch Meletios,et al,, held!

        Thank you for addressing the matter!

      • That was not an accusation, just a gentle word from me on the basis of long experience. I just ask everyone to keep this in mind…

  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    William Tighe,

    I was responding to The young fogey, when your reply appeared on my submitting mine! I read Hodges a while ago with great interest: I’ll have to look him up again, on this!

    You note that “a few of them rebaptize, rechrismate and then reordain such clerical converts” – I am bewildered by the variety of Orthodox responses I have read about, simply where baptism is concerned!

    I was rather wondering if you might pick up on my comment, and would welcome yet further reading suggestions, should you have any!

    • On sacramentology, the Orthodox dogmatize only that they have sacraments per se; non-Orthodox sacraments are only speculation, and in any event, “as is,” not the same as Orthodox sacraments, so the Orthodox’ treatment of them is wildly inconsistent.

  4. William Tighe says:

    “You note that ‘a few of them rebaptize, rechrismate and then reordain such clerical converts’ – I am bewildered by the variety of Orthodox responses I have read about, simply where baptism is concerned!”

    I should have written “all converts, Catholic or Protestant, clerical or lay” above. I wonder if the book *Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Anglicanism* by Methodios Fouyas (Oxford, 1972) would contain matter relating to these issues.

    I should have been clearer that Hodges, in his little book, refers to these matters only obliquely – and that it is clear that in his view “Catholic Anglicans” ought to work for, and accept, such an outcome.

    There really is no agreement among the Orthodox on how to receive Catholic clerical converts (among others). Some receive, “in their Orders,” by concelebration with the bishop and without reordination, Eastern/Byzantine Catholic clergy, but not Latin clergy, some both, some neither — and on occasion they recieve without reordination celibate Catholic clergy, but reordain those who have married after their Catholic ordinations and laicization, or who simply marry without laicization and effectively “leave the Catholic priesthood,” and who subsequently become Orthodox. (I suppose to keep up the pretense that clergy are not allowed to marry after ordination, in such cases their ordinations in Orthodoxy being deemed their “real ordinations”).

    • Dale says:

      The Orthodox world is even more confusing and contradictory than you have portrayed it to be! Often they do not accept the Sacraments of other Orthodox, mostly on ethnic grounds. As an example, on the issue of the Ukrainian non-Moscow jurisdictions, the Russians now accept at least the baptism of the Ukrainian Greek Catholics, but reject as valid the baptisms of the non-Moscow Ukrainian Orthodox Kievian Patriarchate. The reception of Roman Catholic priests, in orders, is all over the map and can change, within the same jurisdiction, from diocese to diocese; the acceptance of Catholic baptisms are usually at the whim of the local priest; this exists even in the Antiochian Archdiocese where not too long ago a parish of the Charismatic Episcopal Church, including their priest, in San Juan Capistrano, California, were all received via baptism, whilst in Massachusetts, a community of the same Church were received via chrismation. Often an individual received in one parish via chrismation or confession will be refused communion in another parish of the same jurisdiction with a demand of rebaptism. I do know of one Greek Catholic priest from the diocese of Lungro in Southern Italy who was originally received via vesting as a priest, later, in Greece, he was re-chrismated, and then later, on Mt Athos, rebaptised and rechrismated, but was never reordained; it is a true turkey shoot.

      And some of us are old enough to remember when the ROCOR was actually re-baptising converts from the Moscow Patriarchate in London!

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Willam Tighe and Dale,

        Thank you for all the additional detail, however bewildering. To advert to an earlier post (or two), I think it was such things that got Father Anthony Chadwick’s and my old mutual friend, Dr. Raymond Winch, down, as a member of an – and -the Orthodox Church.

        Multifarious flak batteries blazing away in all directions, it seems, alas!

      • Dale says:

        David, it is indeed interesting that you mention Dr Winch, many years ago, when Dr Winch was still alive and supporting a western rite, I visited Ware, now Metropolitan of some exotic locale, and did ask him if anyone in England was interested in the western rite because I wanted very much to make contact if there was anyone interested, to which he replied, “No.” Keeping the very existence of Dr Winch a secret. I was at the time a seminarian at S Serge in Paris.

  5. David Llewellyn Dodds says:


    That surprises me, as I think the Rt. Rev. Dr. Ware was a member of Dr. Winch’s Gregorian Club, and was supportive and encouraging in general terms, though never venturing upon the celebration of Dr. Winch’s reconstructed Mass – such is my sythetic memory of my impressions, etc., anyway!

    To play with the positive side of this post’s imagery, the team work of a bomber crew, I know people who entered Orthodoxy through the ROCOR, ended up moving under Metropolitan Kallistos’s care and remained on the best terms with their ROCOR former fellow-members (who were cordially welcoming to non-Orthodox tag-along visitors like me, as well) And I think of how kindly Mr. George Gibbes (ROCOR) welcomed Fr. Basil Osborne (of the Moscow Patriarchate) to celebrate in Archimadrite Nicholas Gibbes’s little.chapel in Marston Street, and himself sometimes attended the Divine Liturgy in Canterbury Road, in turn,

    • I am quite taken back at how the comment thread has turned completely to Orthodoxy. The original posting was nothing to do with Orthodoxy or conversion to a “true Church” – but really how we get criticism from establishment clergy in England and our need to on our guard against discouragement as priests.

      Please take the Orthodox discussion back to the Orthodox Blow-Out Department. I appreciate the discussion about Dr Winch, but it is off-topic on this thread. No one has been a “bad boy”, and there’s no accusation. It’s just a question of place and things being in order. I don’t keep my mainsheet and downhaul ropes in the kitchen, nor tins of bully beef in the boat!

      Thank you for your understanding.

  6. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Thanks for the “no one has been a ‘bad boy’ “!: I have been trying to think about who’s shooting at whom, (self-described) Anglicanly-speakiing but very much not exclusively so, and again, who from diverse backgrounds, etc., is trying to work together as part of an efficient bomber crew (again, not exclusively (self-described) Anglicanly-speakiing).

    I’vr just been rereading Charles Williams’s novel War in Heaven (1930), where a C of E Archdeacon, a C of E laymen (of I am not sure just what sort of ‘Churchmanship’ – need to reread more finely!), and a Duke in communion with the Holy Father are working together in attempting to keep what may be the Holy Grail out of thr hands of some Satanists (eventaully aided by the mysterious, apparently eastern-of-som-sort Prester John), with tensions and fencing and looming fights, but also excellent cooperation…

  7. Michael Frost says:

    Someone should write a paper on just movies involving attempts to shoot down airplanes. So many great movies. So many great scenes. Films like Twelve O’Clock High. The Battle of Britain. Dr. Strangelove/Fail Safe. (Back in the 1980s, when I joined, the USAF was using Twelve O’clock High to teach situational leadership skills to officer trainees.) 🙂

  8. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    I enjoyed Powell & Pressburger’s One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1942), though most of it takes place on the ground,

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