The Reverend Paul Landahl (82) died peacefully on August 31, 2020, surrounded by his family. Paul was the beloved husband to Carolyn who died in 2010, loving father to Elizabeth (Heather Cusick), Amy (Mark Hill), and Matthew (Jeannette Payne), and cherished ‘Papa’ to Eleanor and Nathan Hill and Jonah Landahl. Paul was born on April 4, 1938, to Gustav and Bertha, Swedish immigrants, and is preceded in death by his brother George and survived by his older brothers John and Graydon. Paul’s entire life was guided by his love of people and his Christian faith.
Paul was a graduate of Valparaiso University and Concordia Seminary. His lifetime of ministry took a remarkable range of forms: mission developer, a parish minister, an Associate to the Bishop, Bishop of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and finally the Director of Candidacy for the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.
Paul’s ministry was founded on a true love of community and people, a passion for finding ways to grow the church and make it more inclusive, and an unwavering commitment to social justice. Paul’s youthful spirit matched well with his passion for working with younger people whether it was leading trips in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area for twenty years to supporting seminary students navigating the candidacy process. Paul’s strong sense of service and calling was an inspiration to many.
While he was Bishop of the Metro Chicago Synod from 2001-2007, he advocated for the rights of LGBTQ parishioners and ministers in the ELCA and led the efforts to become a Reconciling in Christ synod. Through his leadership as Bishop, he was a tireless advocate for the rights of marginalized groups including people who live in poverty, persons of color, and the LGBTQ community. In the words of those who knew him, “He lived a consequential life, walked his values, was a force, a beautiful soul, and someone who showed what compassion looks like.” Joy and justice lived in Paul’s spirit.
Paul also served his community as a long time member and chair of the Mental Health Board of Riverside Township, volunteer and board member at BEDS Plus, and as a board member of Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208. He loved his community and Chicago including the Cubs, food, and architecture.
Paul had a deep and abiding love for his family. His boundless energy enabled him to accomplish many great things in his life and also allowed him to be an amazing and supportive husband and dad. His sense of humor and positive spirit helped his family through good and difficult times. He embraced and celebrated life with music. He cherished family dinners and always welcomed an interesting political conversation. He was a rock of support for his children and grandchildren and will be deeply missed.
The family is planning a memorial service for when it is safe to do so. Memorial donations are welcome and appreciated: Ascension Lutheran Church, 400 Nuttall Road, Riverside, IL 60546 or BEDS Plus, https://beds-plus.org.