1960-1970's

The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee traces its roots to two organizations that addressed racial equality in housing, public education and employment amid social upheavals in the 1960s:

 

Greater Milwaukee Conference on Religion and Race. Formed in 1963 with help from the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

Greater Milwaukee Council of Churches. Formed in 1911, it created an Ecumenical Urban Cadre of ministers/lay people in 1960s to address social issues.

 

Church Women United of Wisconsin and neighborhood ministerial associations also provided a fertile ground for interfaith/ecumenical cooperation.

 

1967 to early 2000s -- Milwaukee and Wisconsin Councils of Churches start radio/TV broadcast ministry. Interfaith Conference later helps fund it. The Rev. Robert Seater, UCC, head of Wisconsin Council’s broadcasting commission, is producer for 30-plus years. Over 2,800 programs are aired. 

(photo of Bob Seater)

 

Milwaukee productions include seasonal specials, Sunday devotional programs and talk shows on WTMJ-Radio/TV and WISN-TV.  They include “Inquiry” and “Face to Face” on WTMJ-TV (Channel 4), and “Look In” on WISN-TV                                                   

 

1970's

February 17, 1970: The Greater Milwaukee Council of Churches and the Greater Milwaukee Conference on Religion and Race merge to form the Greater Milwaukee Conference on Religion and Urban Affairs (later to be renamed Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee).

 

Rev. John D. Fischer is first executive director. The first office is at 704 W. Wisconsin Ave.

(photo of Fischer & Frank Zeidler)

 

Religious leaders of the 10 founding judicatories provide whole-hearted support. Ecumenical Urban Cadre of urban affairs staff from several judicatories provides vital energy.

 

May 1970 – Cabinet and Urban Cadre hold retreat at Westminster Presbyterian Church, choose housing as top priority and form task forces staffed by Cadre:

 

Housing Task Force:  Studies housing problems/programs in metro area. Forms advocacy and corporate development committees. Explores providing social services to subsidized housing residents through contract with Roman Catholic Council on Urban Life. Plans fund-raising for housing needs.

Environmental Crisis Task Force: Sends resource materials from April teach-in to congregations. Then focuses on advocacy and providing flow of information.

Project Equality Training Task Force: Assists in beginning of Project Equality of Wisconsin by training religious leaders, planning regional information sessions.

Training Task Force: Directs the Academy of Religion and Urban Affairs for clergy and laity of metro religious community, and others. Offers three quarters per year on church renewal,  community organization, other topics.

Communication Task Force: Seeks to improve communication with/among judicatories. Works with Wisconsin/Milwaukee Religious Broadcast Ministry to develop radio/TV programming in religion and urban affairs, including bi-monthly TV show planned for 1971. Discusses forming Welfare and Youth Culture Task Forces in 1971.

 

Other Conference activities/actions in 1970s

 

Creates Alternative Service Program to employ Conscientious Objectors. Gets State Selective Service approval. Over three years, 41 men participate in research, service and social-action programs. 

Creates Public Education Task Force that, with support from judicatory leaders, becomes a major force for integration/desegregation of the Milwaukee Public Schools. It advocates for quality education in the city and suburbs.

Publishes “Urban Scene” quarterly newsletter; sends to 600 area congregations

Forms task force that results in East Side congregations forming what is now the Interfaith Program for Older Adults, a countywide organization that is independent and separate from the Conference.

Establishes resource center with meeting/working space and up-to-date reference materials for judicatory staff, clergy and congregational leaders planning programs to meet community needs

Task force creates two-year training program for congregations or communities undergoing transitions due to racial, ethnic or socio-economic changes.

Conference’s Ethnic Heritage Project publishes 82-page Guide to Ethnic Resources in the Milwaukee Area in September 1977. Edited by John Gurda and Sara Spence Spellman.