Editing Workflows in JIRA 5.2

Does this effect workflows for all new tasks going forward or does it make a retroactive change?

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A workflow change will affect all existing issues using it.  However, the data from workflows that goes on to an issue is static, point-in-time, and pretty much just the current status.  So, if your workflow edits do not remove any status, the data currently on the issues is not changed at all.  (Removing a status requires you to move the issues in that status to one that does exist in the new workflow)

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