The movement which led to the creation of the Conference of European Churches dates back to the period of the Cold War. The fragmented and divided Europe of the 1940s and 1950s needed to surmount political divisions to devote itself anew to the peoples torn apart by the Second World War.
At this time a small group of church leaders in East and West Europe began to consider together the possibility of bringing into conversation churches in European countries separated by different political, economic and social systems.
Their aim was to enable the churches of Europe to become instruments of peace and understanding.
Exploratory and preparatory meetings took place in 1953 and 1957.
In January 1959 representatives of more than 40 churches met in Nyborg Strand, Denmark for the first Assembly of CEC. A second Assembly was held in 1960 and a third in 1962, both in Nyborg.
At first the organisation represented a loose association of churches, but with the adoption of a Constitution at the 1964 Assembly a significant step was taken towards forming a regional conference of churches. This Assembly was held at sea, aboard the m.v. Bornholm, in order to overcome last-minute visa difficulties.
The fifth Assembly in 1967, held in Pörtschach, Austria, created a full time secretariat as of April 1968.
Today the Conference of European Churches (CEC) is a fellowship of some 114 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, and Old Catholic Churches from all countries of Europe, plus 40 national council of churches and organisations in partnership. CEC was founded in 1959 and has offices in Brussels and Strasbourg.