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EMM History



The work carried on by Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) is a continuation of the rich tradition of the Episcopal Church in responding to homeless and displaced persons from around the world.

An early expression of the Church's commitment to immigrants is found in a resolution of the 1883 General Convention which led to the establishment of a "Committee for the Spiritual Care of Immigrants". A Port chaplaincy was soon established in New York City to respond to the influx of European immigrants. Two decades later, immigrants from China and Japan settled on the West coast and San Francisco and Seattle established chaplaincies to respond to this latest immigrant population.

Following World War I, the Episcopal Church established a Bureau of Immigration of the Episcopal Church Board of Missions to minister to new arrivals to America. The Rev. Thomas Burgess, the Bureau's Secretary, expressed what remains the abiding conviction of the Church concerning immigrants: "Our American Church itself needs the richness of spiritual life that will come from the effort to provide for men and women of every race. These foreign neighbors of ours have as much to give us as we have to give them. They can make this Church really American...."

With the advent of the Second World War and Nazi oppression against Jews and other minorities, the Department of Social Services of the Diocese of Southern Ohio enlisted other parishes and diocese to respond to the plight of refugees in Europe. The Presiding Bishop's Fund for World Relief was an outgrowth of this initiative and became the Church's response to the needs of refugees, especially war victims and displaced persons.

The Episcopal Church was a partner with sixteen Protestant denominations in founding in 1946 Church World Service (CWS) as the overseas relief and service arm of the National Council of Churches of Christ. Until 1981, the Presiding Bishop's Fund resettled refugees through CWS. From 1981 to 1988, the refugee work of the Episcopal Church was carried out as a program of the Presiding Bishop's Fund for World Relief. In 1988, a new entity - Episcopal Migration Ministries - was established as the Church's entity for carrying out resettlement work and conducting advocacy and witness on behalf of refugees and immigrants. In 1991 in response to another restructuring of the National Church, EMM became a part of the Advocacy, Witness and Justice Ministries Unit. It now stands as one of four national program clusters of the Church.

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