"Abstract: The uniformity of worship which we accept as part of the Anglican tradition was an entirely new idea when it was introduced in the sixteenth century. Few had asked for a single book of worship, but it was enforced by top-down, often draconian measures. This article traces the changing circumstances which have led to the loss of such uniformity not only in England, but in the worldwide Anglican Communion. In this process the equation of Anglican identity with a particular liturgical ethos may have disappeared. That process can be illustrated from the experience of the last  Lambeth Conference".
The author asserts that the main liturgical purpose of the Reformers and the 1549 Act of Uniformity was twofold: "first, the Reformers were putting the services wholly into English, and secondly they were purging them of profound medieval error" (p. 42). "It is perhaps difficult for us to get inside the impact of worshipping in English. This was the great cultural shift, the assault on the worshippers' sensibilities, the offending against their total religious outlook. I doubt if any of us who have used English naturally in worship for years can sense what the impact the sudden `in-your-face' language-of-the-street vernacular meant in experience. It it was ecstatic release to some, it was surely near-blasphemy for others" (p. 42). "This is where the principle of `Uniformity' originated; the people might not want it, but Parliament knew it was good for them and would command it. The changes needed had to be enforced. It is a vast distance from any concepts of authorization that we have today" (p. 42).
The author considers the Royal Injunctions of Elizabeth I (especially Number XLIV which begins "[Choral foundations are to be maintained] And that there be a modest and distinct song so used in all parts of the common prayers ...". "A thin end of a wedge here enters the legally tight framework of uniformity. Somebody locally will be able to choose an item within the worship" (p. 48). Indeed he goes on to say, music and hymnbooks became important breaks with uniformity and different ones were favoured and promoted by Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics.
In addition, the Anglo-Catholics dealt with the desire for new liturgies and devotional practices not be changing the authorized liturgy but simply by adding other resource. "The Prayer Book was not so much altered as overlaid. Little manuals were teaching fasting communion, genuflexion at `was made man' in the Nicene Creed, the invoking of the intercession of the saints, and a host of other features of Roman culture" (p. 51).
By the 1920s, and the failure of the revised 1928 Book of Common Prayer to pass in Parliament, Buchanan says "The principle of Uniformity was perishing before the Church of England's eyes but it was perishing because it was already too late, through the range of unofficial variants, to make it credible again. Indeed, the proof of this point emerged immediately, for, when Parliament (yes, Parliament) defeated the Book, there was no attempt by the leadership of the Church to say, `Right, we all now go back into the box of uniformity'. Instead, the bishops sought to find ways of authorizing alternatives, and stated that they would in the interim turn a blind eye to the use of variants in the 1928 Book. It took a long time but `alternative' services were the outcome; local choice not just for prayers within a rite but for the actual rites themselves, was being canonized" (pp. 52-53).
"Thus by the time the `Alternative Services Book' came into use in the late 1980[s], there was hardly more officially authorized material in the eucharistic rite than about ten minutes' worth. An actual Sunday morning service which lasted 70 or 75 minutes was now 80-85 per cent locally produced (hymns, sermon, intercessions, time taken for the peace ..." (p. 56).
"Official liturgical texts will still give a message about the ethos of the particular church, and to an extent state its doctrinal position. Use of those texts will `form' people spiritually. But the context in which they are employed must be one to bring out the best in them ... If the [Liturgical] Commission can know its best products will be properly handled locally by skilled leaders, then it may cease to wring its hands that it is not controlling every mouthful the people eat" (p. 57).
"This is not simply a matter of Commissions and their expertise. It is also a matter of synods and their authority. .... in Canada and Australia, General Synods ... have devolved much more independence in liturgical matters to individual dioceses" (p. 57). "The diversity of Anglicanism is `de fact' so great that few synods would try to coerce parishes into a uniformity. Instead they put a kind of elastic boundary round liturgical practice and ensure it is wide enough and has sufficient stretch within it to avoid too much talk -- and any temptation to action -- which might be triggered by the emotive concept of illegality or defiance of authority. Anglicanism has ceased to be the kind of phenomenon imposed liturgical uniformity made it in 1552 or 1662" (p. 57).