Interfaith and Ecumenical Family of Organizations: Interfaith Groups

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Interfaith and Ecumenical Family of Organizations: Interfaith Groups


Berkeley Area Interfaith Council

2340 Durant Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94704

While the Berkeley Area Interfaith Council is a local organization designed to serve the needs of the Berkeley/Oakland area of the San Francisco Bay community in California, the wide publicity given to its very active program has conferred it an unusual status and recognition in interfaith work in North America. It grew out of the former Berkeley Council of Churches, which had become known in the years immediately following World War II for its political activism but which began to dwindle by the beginning of the 1970s. In 1971 the idea was placed before the council to become more inclusive.

The idea of a new council became a reality in 1973 with the hiring of a full-time director, the Rev. William Shive, whose desire to live a simple life coincided with the minuscule salary the council could afford. He began the task of visiting all of the different churches and religious groups of the community. The council met each month in a different center, the host taking the lead in explaining what their group was all about as part of a program that would include a discussion on some topic of widespread interest. By the end of the 1970s the council had become involved in religious freedom controversies, advocacy of gay rights, and various local issues.

In spite of ups and downs, the council has survived, and most recently it has worked on the follow-up to the World's Parliament of Religions meeting held in Chicago in 1993. The council has become a part of the San Francisco Bay Area Interfaith Coalition.

Membership: Not reported.


Magalis, Elaine. "Methodists, Moonies, and Mormons." New World Outlook (May 1979): 1620.


Canadian Ecumenical Action

Current address not obtained for this edition.

Canadian Ecumenical Action is described as a multi-faith community services society. It was founded in 1973 as the People's Opportunity in Ecumenical Mission by a group of Christians under the leadership of the Rev. Val Anderson. In 1975 the group began the Canadian Ecumenical News. Gradually people of other faiths were included and the group emerged as an interfaith work. The group operates primarily in western Canada.

Canadian Ecumenical Action seeks to promote interfaith understanding; provide information and resources on world religions to the community and encourage interfaith dialogue on community issues; and promote community service programs. Canadian Ecumenical News carries announcements of interfaith activities across Canada. The organization is headed by a planning board of 15 people. Board members serve as interested individuals rather than official representatives of their religious community.

Membership: Participants in Canadian Ecumenical Action come from the many different religious communities represented in Canada.

Periodicals: Canadian Ecumenical News.


Inter-Religions Federation for World Peace

c/o Frank Kaufmann
4 W. 43rd St.
New York, NY 10036

Devoted to the relationship between religion and peace, the Inter-Religions Federation for World Peace (IRFWP) has been involved in international negotiations such as those of the post-Gulf War, the Ayodhya Mosque controversy, the Eritrea-Ethiopia border clashes, the battles of former Yugoslavia, and many other areas of life-and-death confrontation. IRFWP's root organizations include the New Ecumenical Research Association (NEW ERA), the Council for the World's Religions, the International Religious Foundation, the Religious Youth Service (RYS), the Assembly of the World's Religions, and many others. These organizations have maintained vigorous programs, some for decades, and often have played central roles in world affairs where issues of religion and peace are prevalent.

The IRFWP, formally established in 1991, grew out of an older organization, the Global Congress of the World's Religions, which developed from an initial proposal for a centennial celebration of the World's Parliament of Religions, originally held in 1893 in Chicago. The proposal was made by Dr. Warren Lewis, a professor of church history at the Unification Theological Seminary. It received the backing of the seminary, which sponsored several exploratory meetings in the late 1970s. The Global Congress was formally organized in 1980 and during the next few years sponsored a regular series of consultations around the world.

In the mid-1980s, the Global Congress acquired the sponsorship of the International Religious Foundation, one of the arms of the Unification Church, which had supplied it with financial and personal resources. Its activity was then divided between two structures: the Council for the World's Religions, which promoted worldwide faith meetings, and the Assembly of the World's Religions, which met every few years. The assembly, which involves the leadership of the council, also draws upon the resources of the International Religious Foundation. At its 1990 assembly meeting, Rev. Sun Myung Moon announced the formation of the Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace. The IRFWP has peace as its general goal, which includes peace within one's self and one's family, peace within societies and among nations, peace within and among religions, peace within and among cultures, and peace between the human and natural worlds.

In addition to the investment of massive resources into post-September 11th programs to restore and reconcile inter-religious and international relations especially within Islam and between Muslim and Christian world cultures, the IRFWP is active on other fronts such as India-Pakistan, the Middle East, and the Muslim-Christian encounters in Southeast Asia and in the former Soviet Union countries. Services of the IRFWP include shuttle diplomacy, international programs, conferences/events, and periodical and literary publications. Such structures are used for special weekday ceremonial work rather than being centers for the weekly gathering of worshippers. The four main services performed in the temple are the baptism for the dead, in which the living are baptized as proxies for those who died in generations past; the temple endowments; temple marriage; and sealings, which establish family structures in the life beyond earthly existence.

The federation, formally established in 1991, has as its goal peace, which includes: peace within one's self and one's family peace within societies and among nations; peace within religions and among religious traditions; peace within and among cultures; and peace between the human and natural worlds. It is the belief of the leadership that inter-religious peace is essential for world peace and that a respect for religious pluralism is a key element of modern life. The federation is headed by an interfaith presiding council assisted by a board of advisors composed of a large number of religious leaders and scholars. An executive staff administers the day-to-day work of the federation.

The church has expanded rapidly, especially in the decades since World War II. It now has missions in most countries of the world.

Membership: Not reported.

Periodicals: IRFWP Newsletter. • Dialogue and Alliance.

Sources: Bryant, M. Darrol, John Maniatus, and Tyler Hendrics, eds. Assembly of the World's Religions, 1985: Spiritual Unity and the Future of the Earth. New York: International Religious Foundation, 1985.

Lewis, Warren, ed. Towards a Global Congress of the World's Religions. Barrytown, NY: Unification Theological Seminary,1978.

Thompson, Henry O. The Global Congress of the World's Religions: Proceedings, 1980–82. Barrytown, NY: Unification Theological Seminary, 1982.

Walsh, Thomas G., ed. Assembly of the World's Religions, 1990: Tranmitting Our Heritage to Youth and Society. New York: Interreligious Foundation, 1992.


National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ)

475 Park Ave. S., 19th Fl.
New York, NY 10016-6901

Alternate Address: International Council of Christians and Jews, Martin Buber House, Werlestrasse 2, D-64646, Heppenheim, Germany; Canadian Council of Christians and Jews, 2 Carlton St., Ste 820, Toronto, ON M5B 1J3.

The National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ), founded in 1927 as the National Conference for Christians and Jews, is a human relations organization dedicated to fighting bias, bigotry, and racism in America. NCCJ promotes understanding and respect among all races, religions, and cultures through advocacy, conflict resolution, and education.

The NCCJ was founded by Charles Evans Hughes, Newton D. Baker, S. Parkes Cadman, Roger W. Straus, and Carlton J. H. Hayes. The work extended to Canada in 1940 with the formation of the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews and to Europe in 1950 with the formation of the World Brotherhood (now embodied in the International Council of Christians and Jews).

Through the years, NCCJ has promoted interreligious dialogue, especially between Jewish and Christian leaders, and in the 1980s moved into the needful area of Jewish/Christian/Muslim dialogue. It has also initiated dialogues between African-Americans, the Jewish community, and the larger non-Jewish white population.

NCCJ focuses on the multiple manifestations of discrimination and oppression that are based on one's religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, economic and social class, age, or physical ability status. Through its programming strategies, research, and public policy initiatives, NCCJ works to transform communities so that they are more whole and just, and to promote understanding and respect across groups by preparing and supporting faith; economic opportunity; education; youth; news and advertising media; and government leadership to build inclusive institutions.

Membership: In 2002, NCCJ reported more than 60 regional offices in 34 states and the District of Columbia, and more than 400 full and part-time staff members.


Braybrooke, Marcus. Inter-Faith Organizations, 1893–1979: An Historical Directory. New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1980.


North American Interfaith Network (NAIN)

4910 Valley Crest Dr.
St. Louis, MO 64128-1829

Alternate Address: Canadian office: ℅ Rev. David A. Spence, Multifaith Action Society, 33 Arrowwood Pl., Port Moody, BC Canada V3H 4J1; Mexican office: c/o Jonathan Rose, Mexican Interfaith Council, Calle Matameros 4, Tepaztlan, Marleas, C.P. 62525 Mexico.

North American Interfaith Network (NAIN) was established in 1988 out of a gathering of some 350 people from across North America representing the spectrum of the world's religious faiths at Wichita, Kansas. NAIN emerged from that meeting as a network of participating member organizations. It has been successful in involving local interfaith councils and groups representative of traditions other than Christian.

NAIN sponsors an annual conference. Through the affiliated Interfaith Voices for Peace & Justice, it publishes a directory of more than 800 faith-based and interfaith organizations.

Membership: In 2002 NAIN reported approximately 100 member organizations.

Periodicals: NAINews & Interfaith Digest.


North American Interfaith Network. 7 May 2002.


Temple of Understanding

℅ Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
1047 Amsterdam Ave. (at 112th St.)
New York, NY 10025

The Temple of Understanding grew out of the vision of Judith Hollister for a center for the promotion of understanding between the world's religions, a recognition of the oneness of the human family, and ultimately the organization of a spiritual United Nations. The ideas as put forth in the 1950s were warmly received by a number of prominent leaders around the globe, from Eleanor Roosevelt to Albert Schweitzer, who in 1960 became "founding friends" of the temple.

The temple is headed by a president, a board of directors, an advisory board, and an international committee. Over the years the temple has held a number of Spiritual Summit Conferences. Plans have existed for many years to create a permanent home of the temple on land near Washington, D.C., but financial resources to construct the facility have not been forthcoming as yet.

Periodicals: The temple cooperates with the World Congress of Faiths in the production of World Faiths Insight.


Braybrooke, Marcus. Inter-Faith Organizations, 1893–1979: An Historical Directory. New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1980.


United Religions Initiative

PO Box 29242
San Francisco, CA 94129-0242

The United Religions Initiative (URI) dates to 1990 when Rt. Rev. William E. Swing, the Episcopal bishop of San Francisco, conceived of a global interfaith community that could work toward ending religiously motivated violence which it would replace with new structures based on healing, peace, and justice. He began to share his vision with colleagues and its ideals generated a response internationally. In 1996, the first of what has become an annual Global Summit Conference gathered in San Francisco.

As the idea of a United Religions Initiative, the name attached to the vision, took shape, the group sponsored the 72 Hours of Peace program to promote the idea of a transition to the year 2000 in a prayerful and spiritual context. Subsequent conferences initiated a spectrum of projects internationally that drew the support of prominent religious leaders to its cause. The work internationally led to the formation of local groups ("cooperating circles"), the appointment of an interim Global Council, the formation of regional (continental) assemblies, and the establishment of an office and executive staff in San Francisco. Staffing is being established on each of the six major continents.

Then in June 2000, an inaugurating conference was held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at which the URI was formally organized. The ceremony was highlighted by people from 39 different religious traditions and 44 countries penning their name to the charter. The URI's program initiatives are based upon a belief/ hope that daily interfaith cooperation can lead to the ending of violence caused by religious conflict and lead to a new culture characterized by peace, justice, and healing. To implement its ideal, URI is promoting a variety of training and pilot projects aimed at creating a new paradigm for peace building through the twenty-first century.

Membership: Not reported. As of 2001 there were more than 1,000 cooperating circles worldwide.

Periodicals: URI Update.


United Religions Initiative. 7 May 2002.


World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP)

℅ Secretary-General
777 United Nations Plaza, 12th Fl.
New York, NY 10017

Alternate Address: International headquarters: 14 chemin Auguste-Vilbert, 1218 Grand Saconnex, Geneva, Switzerland.

The World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP) grew out of an initiative to bring religious resources to bear on the world situation threatening to lead to war. It calls people of different faiths to unite in a common effort for world peace.

The work that led to the founding of WCRP can be traced to 1962 and to Unitarian-Universalist leader Dr. Dana McLean Greeley, who brought together Rabbi Maurice N. Eisendrath, Bp. John Wesley Lord (Methodist), and Bp. John Wright (Roman Catholic). The occasion for their first gathering was the Cuban missile crisis. Their informal gatherings led to an initial conference in New York in 1964 and a National Inter-Religious Conference on World Peace in Washington, D.C., in 1966. The next year, two representatives of the National Conference made a round-the-world tour to ascertain support for an international meeting.

An initial International Inter-Religious Symposium on Peace in 1968 led directly to the first World Conference on Peace held in Kyoto, Japan, in 1970, at which time the WCRP was formally established. The founding of WCRP occurred in the wake of the heightened war effort in Vietnam. Since that time, WCRP has been given status as a United Nations Non-Governmental Agency. It has carried on a regular program of relief to the victims of war and speaking to nations either at war or threatening to go to war.

Periodicals: Religion for Peace, 14 chemin Auguste-Vilbert, 1218 Grand Saconnex, Geneva, Switzerland.


Braybrooke, Marcus. Inter-Faith Organizations, 1893–1979: An Historical Directory. New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1980.

Jack, Homer. WCRP: A History of the World Conference on Religion and Peace. New York: World Conference on Religion and Peace, 1993.

World Conference on Religion and Peace. Religions for Peace: Action for Common Living. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2000.


World Council of Independent Christian Churches (WCICC)

PO Box 136
Mount Ephraim, NJ 08059

Alternate Address: WCICC-Africa: c/o Rev. Dr. Grace D. L. Kityo, Upper Mwanga II Rd., Kampala-Central, PO Box 9530, Kampala, Uganda.

The World Council of Independent Christian Churches (WCICC) is an Evangelical Christian fellowship of churches, pastors, ministries, and schools which, though not limited to Jewish evangelism, is very much based in Jewish Messianism. The Council professes belief in the divine inspiration of the Bible, the Triune God, the fallen nature of humanity, and salvation through Jesus Christ/Yeshua. It further professes belief in a premillennial dispensational view of salvation history that begins with God's progressively revealed Self through successive ages (or dispensations), during each of which humanity was tested in respect of obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God, and that the next event in that history will be, at any moment, the Rapture of the saved, which will happen when the Lord descends from heaven to take His people to meet Him in the air. His people compose the Church of Jesus Christ that had its beginning at Pentecost and is composed solely of believers.

Since 1992, the council has provided ordination to otherwise independent believers, a practice designed to meet the needs of individuals who have not found a place in other Evangelical and Messianic organizations. Prospective ministers must obtain the required education needed to sustain the call (all forms of education considered), show a knowledge of the Bible, and be a member of the Council. For otherwise qualified individuals, gender, age and marital status is no hindrance to ordination.

In January 2001, the council experienced a severe tragedy when its headquarters building was destroyed in a fire. That fire destroyed most of its records, including its membership list. Since that time a temporary headquarters has been established and the leadership has begun the task of recreating its membership lists and directory.

The council has developed an especial interest in the issues of religious freedom in the world and has become an activist organization calling for the end of all forms of religious persecution and racism. In this cause it has worked with the United States Department of State and various United Nation's agencies.

Membership: In January 2001, the WCICC included work in 76 countries and a membership of more than 350,000.


World Council of Independent Christian Churches. 16 March 2002.


World Fellowship of Religions

℅ Siddhachalam
RD 4, Box 374, Mud Pond Rd.
Blairstown, NJ 07825

Alternate Address: International headquarters: c-599, Chetna Marg, New Delhi, India.

The World Fellowship of Religions was founded in the 1950s in India but now has branches in more than 30 countries. It was founded by Jain master H.H. Acharya Sushil Kumarji Maharaj, who presented an initial proposal for the fellowship in 1955. This led to the World Conference of All Religions held in Delhi in 1957, following which the World Fellowship of Religions was formally inaugurated. It has held regular world conferences, primarily in India, ever since.

WFR has as its goals the promotion of peace, the establishment of right human relationships, and the building of right human relationships through love, equality, compassion, and friendship. It has created a number of projects to directly help suffering people, such as the setting up of medical facilities and development of nutrition programs. WFR works on the basis that nonviolence is essential to its cooperative program.

Periodicals: Siddhachalam Newsletter.


Clark, Francis, ed. Interfaith Directory. New York: International Religious Foundation, 1987.

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Interfaith and Ecumenical Family of Organizations: Interfaith Groups

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