The Archbishop of Canterbury just sent a letter to the bishops of the Anglican Communion, the purpose of which was to set "out his personal reflections on the Lambeth Conference."
He begins the letter by saying, "As the Lambeth Conference of 2008 comes to an end, I want to offer some further reflections of my own on what the bishops gathered in Canterbury have learned and experienced. Those of you who have been present here will be able to share your own insights with your people, but it may be useful for me to add my own perspectives as to where we have been led."
The reflections offered are of some value although it is difficult to say just how much they have to do with the realities of discussions at Lambeth that have no conclusions and the wish fulfillments of the incumbent of the See of Canterbury.
But the title give the letter is surely the results of the wish fulfillments of his staff, or God forbid of his own understanding of his office. The title for the communication, on the Anglican Communion web site, is this: Archbishop’s Pastoral Letter to Bishops of the Anglican Communion." The letter itself does not refer to this as a Pastoral Letter. Very little of this will make much difference to anyone outside the niceties of Anglican Land, but the title, "A Pastoral Letter" evokes various letters in the New Testament canon and letters from a pastor bishop to the people and clergy of the diocese, or in the case of a Primate to the Church. The Archbishop of Canterbury is properly engaged in writing pastoral letters to his "flock," in his case the Church of England. He has no defined pastoral role in the Communion as a whole. Even as "first among equals," (a title by the way that has no warrant in Anglican thinking prior to the mid 1980's) he is not in any sense "pastor" to the bishops of the Anglican Communion.
To his great credit, the Archbishop appropriately considers his letter a series of personal reflections. But his staff seems to think that he issues Pastoral Letters. He does not.
Just to be clear.
Let he who is first among equals remember the word "equal."