From the Hymnal Project Website where the WELS hymnal is being prepared in preparation for 2024 (seems like a long way off but not so much for a project as big as a replacement worship book).
In developing the service materials for the new hymnal, it has been the goal of the Rites Committee to provide both clarity and consistency among the services used for the congregation’s main weekly services. We want people to know the function of each element of the service and for each service element to serve the same function in each service.It might serve to refresh your memory that with the publication of Christian Worship as the WELS replacement for TLH in 1993 that an innovation moved the Kyrie from its historic position following the Introit and before the Gloria in Excelsis to a place between the people's confession and the pastor's absolution. In effect, the Kyrie became an echo of the people's plea for the Lord to be merciful to them voiced first of all in the confession of sins. The historic place for the Kyrie was left with a one sentence statement: In the peace of forgiveness, let us praise the Lord.
In response to sampling this revised service text and progression, congregations expressed appreciation for the consistency and clarity it provided. For example, the canticle “Lord, Have Mercy” (Kyrie) will not be connected with the confession of sins but will be a series of petitions on the basis of God’s mercy following the absolution. The Verse of the Day will now be called the Gospel Acclamation and people will stand prior to it, making it clearer that this service element is not a sung response to the Second Reading but rather serves to prepare us for the hearing of the Gospel. Worship leaders and worshipers responded favorably to these elements of the service.
Perhaps the part of the service where the response was most negative was related to the post-Communion conclusion of the service. The “Song of Simeon” (Nunc Dimittis) was not included as a standard element of the service but was replaced by a note indicating the optional inclusion of a hymn or canticle following distribution. The Rites Committee will revisit this issue as they finalize the services for the new hymnal. While it remains to be seen how many and which specific ones, we can say with certainty that musical settings of the Song of Simeon will be included somewhere in the new hymnal - even if it is in a separate “Canticles” section and not within the services themselves.
Now it seems that the next hymnal will move the Kyrie to after the absolution but still not part of the historic form of Introit, Kyrie, and Gloria in Excelsis. It is another strange innovation that seems born of an uncertainty of what the Kyrie is. Now it will become an echo of the absolution? In liturgical theology, the emphasis of the Kyrie (either the short Kyrie or its extended litany form) is not on us and our sinfulness but rather on the Lord, whose mercy is revealed in the salvation accomplished for us in Jesus Christ. Though it has traditionally been translated, Lord, have mercy, it could be translated Lord, You are merciful! The emphasis not on our sin but upon the mercy of God -- mercy certainly outlined in more detailed statement in the Gloria in Excelsis.
The other curious innovation is a rejection of the one distinctly Lutheran addition to the Divine Service, the inclusion of the Nunc Dimittis as the ordinary post-communion canticle. LBW and its heirs added another canticle to the choices of a post-communion song but clearly the Nunc Dimittis was primary. Now, apparently, the WELS hymnal project sought to remove it entirely and suggest that any song or canticle may be sung where the Nunc Dimittis long stood. It appears that people were not so positive about this suggestion and it may change but it does suggest that the WELS hymnal group saw its mandate not as conservator of a tradition but clearly having the freedom to change that tradition. Interesting because this group was one of the last to stop using TLH and yet it seems be the one that has not shied away from tinkering with this legacy of the Common Service then and in the book to come.
BTW if you want to see even more from the Hymnal Project, look at the list of hymns from CW that did NOT make it into the new book, at least for now. . .