Alexandria, Va. — The National Credit Union Administration announced that it has issued a federal charter to ELCA Federal Credit Union, making it the third such new charter for 2015.

NCUA said that its Office of Consumer Protection granted the charter to ELCA FCU to serve employees, members, synods and member congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Also, NCUA's Office of Small Credit Union Initiatives provided guidance to the charter group throughout the chartering process and will continue to assist the new credit union.

ELCA will be based in Chicago and expects to open for business in the first quarter of 2016.

The credit union is being supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America which has ministries throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. Based in Chicago, The Evangelical Lutheran Church is one of the largest Christian denominations in the U.S., with nearly 10,000 congregations.

The charter also represents the first new consumer federal credit union in the state of Illinois since 2006.

"One of the most satisfying things that NCUA does is to charter new credit unions," NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz said. "It's even more satisfying when the new credit union has the potential to provide access to affordable financial products and services to four million Americans."

Matz added that her agency stands ready "to work with other religious groups interested in chartering new credit unions."

During its first year of operations, the credit union plans to offer: regular shares, share drafts, share certificates, money market shares, IRA/Keogh accounts, credit cards, auto loans, unsecured loans, online banking, online bill payment, mobile banking, ATM access and direct deposit.

With the third such federal charter granted in 2015, the NCUA is far ahead of last year's pace when it approved three federal charters for the full calendar year of 2014. Ironically, the third such charter from last year was also granted to a Lutheran organization — the Lutheran Federal Credit Union, a now a $75,000 institution based in St, Louis, Mo.

Typically, the NCUA has only approved one or two new federal charters annually in recent years.

According to an agency spokesman, NCUA approved one new federal charter in 2013, four in 2012, one in 2011 and three in 2010.

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