The community of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC), and the wider church, mourn the death of the Reverend Paul Landahl, 82, who died Monday morning, Aug. 31, surrounded by his family.
Chris Honig, his pastor at Ascension Lutheran Church in Riverside, Ill., reported that Landahl’s health had declined in recent months due to an undiagnosed illness.
Landahl was born in 1938 to Swedish immigrants. He was a graduate of Valparaiso University and Concordia Seminary. His lifetime of ministry came in many forms: mission developer, a parish minister, an associate to the bishop, bishop of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod, and finally as coordinator of candidacy for LSTC from 2008 to 2017. As evidence of his continual fight for LGBTQ inclusivity, he led the synod in becoming a Reconciling in Christ synod during his tenure as bishop.
Philip Hougen, former synodical bishop and former president of LSTC, called Landahl “wise, compassionate and a truth-teller… a man of faith, compassion and integrity.”
“Paul and I became friends while we served together as bishops in Region 5 of the ELCA,” Hougen said, adding that when he arrived at LSTC after Landahl, he soon recognized his contributions to LSTC. “He was extremely helpful to students dealing with the sometimes confusing processes of candidacy and synodical assignments for first calls.
“Because of Paul's experience as a synodical bishop, and because of the high regard in which he was held by other bishops, he was an extremely effective advocate for LSTC students in their interactions with candidacy committees and bishops. Everybody knew they could trust Paul; students, faculty and synodical staff knew his integrity and his love for the church. He was an especially effective advocate for LGBT candidates for ministry when that was not a value shared by all.”
Kadi Billman, John H. Tietjen Professor of Pastoral Ministry; Pastoral Theology, Emerita, said Landahl brought his rich experience as a pastor and bishop to his role at LSTC.
“Because he advocated so passionately and persuasively for the inclusion of those most vulnerable to marginalization in the church and world in those critical roles, LSTC students trusted his counsel and guidance as their representative in the candidacy process,” Billman said. “Paul brought humor, forthrightness and skill to his ministry. He faithfully participated in the worship life of the community, and would often be found in the Refectory sharing a meal and laughter with staff, faculty and students. ‘I love it here!’ was his mantra. One of his greatest gifts was to embody the joy of being part of the body of Christ together.”
The faculty’s confidence and gratitude for his life of service led the faculty to award one of the highest honors the faculty is privileged to give: The Confessor of Christ Award in 2016. Pastor Landahl concluded his service as bishop in 2007. Since then, he has served as director of candidacy and coordinator of The Tithing and Stewardship Foundation at LSTC.
Marji Shannon, associate director of contextual education, also worked closely with Landahl at LSTC. She marveled at the wealth of knowledge he brought with him to the LSTC.
He enjoyed sitting down one-on-one with students and learning about their call to ministry and hearing how their journey was unfolding. He brought energy and joy to his work with students and was always available to talk with them whenever they stopped by his office. He took his job as a bridge between students and their candidacy committees seriously and was a strong advocate for our students going through the first call assignment process.”
Landahl was preceded in death by his wife, Carolyn, in 2010. He is survived by their children Elizabeth, Amy and Matthew and their families. The family is planning a memorial service for when it is safe to do so. Memorial donations are welcome and appreciated: Ascension Lutheran Church or BEDS Plus, where he was a volunteer and board member.
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The Lutheran School of Theology (LSTC) is dedicated to bearing witness to the good news of Jesus Christ. Based in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, it is the leading urban Lutheran seminary training students for purposeful vocations in the global community. Aligned with its Lutheran heritage and built on a foundation of intellectual rigor, LSTC’s innovative, nationally recognized curriculum gives students skills for visionary Christian leadership in the public sphere.