The Lutheran Church Extension Fund serves as a sort of bank within the wider Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod community. Members of LCMS congregations can purchase Notes issued by the LCEF, which mature after a fixed period. The LCEF lends the money raised to various sub-entities in the church, like congregations, schools, and rostered church workers, at interest. As borrowers pay back the loans and the Notes mature, money flows back to investors who wish to redeem their Notes.
According to financial statements released in October of 2020, the LCEF has over $2 billion in assets, most in the form of loans receivable–money the Fund expects to get back from borrowers it lent to. About half of this amount, over $1 billion, is owed by LCMS congregations. In 2020, the LCEF downgraded $225 million in congregational debt from its highest “Pass” category to “Special Mention”, which it assigns to “loans where the borrower exhibits trends that, if left uncorrected, may threaten their capacity to perform.” The Fund also carries $1.6 billion in notes payable–money it owes individual LCMS members who have invested in the Fund.
By comparison, institutions of higher education (including the Concordia University System) owe $122 million to the LCEF. Concordia University Portland is the largest of these borrowers, with $37 million in “Impaired” loans. One year before, all CUP debt–and all CUS debt–received the highest “Pass” grade, meaning it “reflect[ed] acceptable risk.”
The LCEF is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit religious organization; therefore, investments in the Fund (the Notes purchased) are not insured by the FDIC.