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Happy Birthday, CEF!2 min read

Today marks the 120th anniversary of the founding of Church Extension Fund. On June 18, 1901 at a meeting in Frankenmuth, CEF was officially formed as a Corporate Board of Trustees. This board was formed to “take, hold, invest, sell and otherwise manage and control property.” In typical humble Lutheran fashion and with a propensity for acronym creation, said board was named “Michigan District of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and other States limited to Michigan.” Whew, what a name! As CEF was a Board of the District, the two were technically one organization up until 1968 when CEF spun off the Michigan District and the two have been legally separate ever since. I know what you are wondering … how did we go from MDOTELSOMOAOSLTM to CEF?

In 1947, when the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States decided to embrace brevity, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod was formed. The following year, CEF became “The Michigan District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod” and then in 1968 after spinning off District, CEF became “Church Extension Board.” One more name change in 1998 to “Church Extension Fund” and the long winding name history of CEF is complete.

In those 120 years, the ministry of CEF has been vital to the growth of churches, schools, and Recognized Service Organizations in Michigan. When I was researching some history for a story in our Annual Report, I found some interesting facts about CEF. Since 1960, over $570 million has been loaned to ministries in the Michigan District and more than $1.1 billion has been invested from thousands of faithful stewards. In the 1980’s CEF began a Grants Program to share our blessings with ministries. Since then, we have given away over $16 million!

Here are few additional fun facts about CEF:

  • CEF is as old as the Detroit Tigers, who were also formed in 1901.
  • CEF, the organization that helps build buildings, did not have its own building until 1957!
  • The founding Board members were Herman Speckhard, Emanuel Mayer (future District President), Michael Helmreich, John Ruff, and John Schroeder.
  • Two of my extended family members have served on the CEF Board: Rev. Otto Sohn and Rev. Glenn Sattelmeier.
  • CEF has survived 2 global pandemics, 2 World Wars, and the Great Depression/Recession.

To celebrate this anniversary, in the coming weeks CEF will unveil a new historical display in the office lobby area. Please consider this an invitation to come check out the long history of CEF and its operations. You can read more history in the CEF June/July 2021 Spotlight published in the Michigan In Touch supplement to The Lutheran Witness.

We know that our efforts have been blessed by God as we continue to help to build the Kingdom here in Michigan. CEF is first and foremost a ministry and a Gospel enterprise. All glory, laud, and honor are due to our Redeemer King for the long history and future blessings in store for CEF.

Let’s celebrate!


About the Author

Andrew O. Sohn serves as Vice President - Marketing and Relations for the Church Extension Fund of the Michigan District

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