CSC BackgroundCSC Background

The Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches (CSC of CEC) was established in 1999 as a result of an integration process between CEC and the European Ecumenical Commission for Church and Society (EECCS), both of which had a long-standing record of working in the field of church and society.

CEC was founded in 1959 as a bridge-building organisation between the churches in Eastern and Western Europe. The roots of CSC as well go back to half a century. In 1959 a group of Protest civil servants working within the European institutions (ECSC, EEC, EURATOM) organised itself as the Ecumenical Association. The endeavour of its members was to have a platform to explore the relevance of the Christian message for their work and to reflect on the developments of European societies.

Quite early the group began to organize thematic European meetings in order to involve established national church structures in the debates and to work on European affairs, thus bridging the gap between “Brussels” and the rest of the (then) Western Europe. These meetings were formalised in 1964 under “the Consultative Commission of Churches for the European Communities” (CCCEC), later renamed the European Ecumenical Commission for Church and Society (EECCS)

Eventually, the fall of the Iron Curtain allowed for further deepening and widening of European co-operation. This had repercussions both for inter-church relations and for the relations between the churches and the European institutions. In 1990 President Jacques Delors invited the churches to contribute to the ‘heart’ and ‘soul’ of Europe and initiated the still existing arrangement of Dialogue Seminars between the European Commission, CSC and, a few years later, COMECE. From the side of the churches, the new political situation led to the deepening of relationships between EECCS and the Geneva-based Conference of European Churches.

CSC celebrates 50 years of history

The Europe Secretaries meeting of 2009 took place around November 19 to mark the 50th anniversary of (what is now) CSC. It was honoured by the active presence of Helmut von Verschuer, a former European Commission official and one of the founders of the European Ecumenical Commission for Church and Society (EECCS). Together with Jaap Houtman, another former EC official and long-standing friend of EECCS/CSC, they reminded the church representatives that it were the Christian civil servants who initiated the dialogue between the churches and the EU institutions. According to Helmut von Verschuer, the constant search for justice and peace make up the core of this dialogue, and in cases where the states do not follow this vocation, the churches ought to be a most credible authority to intervene. The celebration began with a fascinating presentation on Europe as our autobiography by Mr Alastair Hulbert, former EECCS/CSC staff. The story which drew on European arts, geography, history and mythology was an invitation to love and cherish our common Europe.

Rev. Marc Lenders, who served the Ecumenical Association for over 30 years, pointed at a parallelism in developments within the EU and the ecumenical movement; the growing nationalism in EU decision-making, and the rise of an ecumenism of profiles within the CEC family. Marc Lenders argued that having contributed to divisions in Europe and having at times nourished nationalism, the churches have a debt to pay and they can do so by countering divides in Europe. The churches’ work should witness a commitment for justice, peace and integrity of creation. In addition, Marc Lenders invited the churches to undertake a renewed reflection on the finalities of EU integration. The celebration was also an opportunity to hear personal witnesses and testimonies from several other people who have marked the history of the organisation: Antje Heider-Rottwilm, Laurens Hogebrink, Win Burton and Antoinette Panhuis.

Speech of Rev. Marc Lenders - November 2009

50 Years of CSC50 Years of CSC

1959-2009 : 50 years of dialogue with the European Institutions

Copyright CSC of CEC