Some 20 years ago, Bishop Michael Ingham created a diocesan committee called the Inter-Church Interfaith Relations Committee (ICIFRC). It was modeled on the General Synod Standing Committee of the same name which he had chaired for several years.
Comprised of both clergy and laity, its formation reflected a broadening out of the vision of ecumenism in the 1980s and 90s from Christians of different denominations cooperating with each other in areas of common concern, to a more inclusive movement among people of all faiths.
The pattern of religious observance was starting to shift in Canada. Changing immigration policies had brought Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh believers in greater numbers, while traditional Christian and Jewish communities were losing strength and effectiveness. The evangelical churches were not interested in inter-faith cooperation, only in proselytism.
And so many mainstream Christians began to reach out to different faith communities in search of both mutual understanding and mutual cooperation in areas such as poverty, homelessness, human rights etc. This was a great challenge to everybody involved. All religious communities have a tendency to inwardness, to meeting the spiritual needs of their own people first. Many clergy - in all traditions - had no time for work outside their own boundaries. But some brave and visionary ones did, and many laity too.
From ICIFRC to EMU
After several years actively functioning as a special committee of the Bishop, it was suggested that all would be better served if it became a regular unit of the diocese, enabling it thereby to have an official working budget. So at the 2006 Synod, the Inter-Church Interfaith Relations Committee was officially renamed the Ecumencial & Multifaith Unit (EMU) of the Diocese of New Westminster.
As it was in the beginning and is now, EMU membership is comprised of laity and clergy from parishes throughout the diocese. Its regular monthly meetings are convened at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Vancouver.