David Fitch excels in raising issues that need to be thought about, and has done so again with When Liturgy Goes Bad: Constantinian Liturgy in a Post-Constantinian World.
I am certainly someone who has been attracted to liturgy because of the emotionalism inherent within a non-liturgical free church tradition, where spontaneity bears a burden larger than I believe it can handle. But moving from (so-called) spontaneous worship forms to more liturgical forms might simply exchange one set of problems for another. This is particularly because established liturgies were largely formed in a period often dubbed “Constantinian” by those who follow the work of Yoder and Hauerwas. (Read a helpful brief on the Anabaptist critique of Constantinianism)
In short, the problem is that these liturgies make too many assumptions about the world we’re living in and the relationship of the church to power which range between unhelpful and destructive. I myself am still wrestling through these issues, and I’m glad that David has articulated them so succinctly. As always, problems and solutions are more complicated than choosing from two available options.
Here’s the opening couple of paragraphs from Fitch’s post:
I am a strong advocate of liturgical worship as the centerpiece for spiritual formation for missional communities. (As I wrote in the Great Giveaway) Over against the lecture hall or the feel-good pep-rally worship that has driven so much of Christendom evangelicalism, we gather to worship God as a holy transformative immersive engagement with God that shapes us for life with God and Mission.
Sometimes however, there is a danger in liturgy that must be discerned. We realize the inadequacies of modern evangelical worship practices for our day, and then we go immediately to high church practices (Anglican/Roman Catholic) and adopt high church liturgy as it is and impose it on a bunch of people who have no idea what we’re doing. In the process, our liturgy becomes inaccessible, foreign and imposed (in a Constantianian way which I will explain in a minute). And this is where I think most people get turned off to liturgy. This is why liturgy is incomprehensible to so many emerging types and they just reject it. Or, even worse, in a reaction to its imposed and inaccessible forms as found for instance sometimes in Roman Catholicism, emerging folk turn liturgy into trite new age experiential exercises. This is a problem for those of us who desire to go beyond lecture hall-ism and feel-good pep-rally-ism and proceed into the depths of encounter made possible via liturgical formation.