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Our History


The Episcopal Church has served immigrants new to the U.S. since the late 1800s, when the Church opened port chaplaincies to minister to sojourners on both coasts. The Church has been a vocal advocate on behalf of refugees since World War II, when Episcopal parishes and dioceses spoke out on behalf of Jewish refugees and others displaced by Nazi aggression. Out of this effort, the Presiding Bishop's Fund for World Relief was born, the forerunner organization to Episcopal Relief & Development and Episcopal Migration Ministries.

Individual and parish donations provided steamship passage to Central European refugees in the period leading up to the outbreak of war, marking the Church’s first resettlement ministry in 1939. This ministry resumed after fighting ended in 1945 and has continued in multiple forms to the present day.

The Church has formally assisted refugees through the U.S. Resettlement Program since the passage of the Refugee Act in 1980. Since 1988, EMM and its network of affiliate partners have aided and welcomed more than 50,000 refugees in partnership with dioceses, churches, community institutions and volunteers.