A pastor who led an Independence church for several years was found dead Tuesday in a private lake near Topeka.

A pastor who led an Independence church for several years was found dead Tuesday in a private lake near Topeka.

Kansas authorities discovered the body of Bruce Rahtjen, 77, Tuesday morning in a lake southwest of Topeka.

Officials do not believe criminal activity was a factor in the death. The Shawnee County coroner is investigating the cause of death.

Rahtjen went fishing at Lake Edun, a nudist camp near Topeka. He was last seen fishing at the lake on Sunday.

Rahtjen served as rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Independence in the 1980s until 1990, when he moved to St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City. He retired there in 1999.

As a seminary professor who taught Greek, Hebrew and Old and New Testament, Rahtjen helped prepare more than 700 people for the ministry, including at least 15 who served in Independence, according to a July 1989 article in The Examiner.

“He was brilliant biblical scholar,” said Duane Stephens, the former associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Independence. “Hebrew and Greek. He could read and study in the original languages. He was a friendly man. He was a very intelligent man.”

Rahtjen taught Stephens at St. Paul’s School of Theology.

 “He was one of those professors who I always had a great deal of respect for, both in his personality and his knowledge,” he said. “It’s a real loss in a lot of ways.”

Stephens retired last year as the associate pastor. He served at the church for 42 years.

Stephens was reacquainted with Rahtjen when he took over at Trinity Episcopal.

Rahtjen was active in community affairs in Independence and served as president of the Independence Ministerial Alliance.

Rahtjen began his ministry in the Methodist Church in the 1950s, according to The Examiner article. He was born in upstate New York and earned degrees from the University of Rochester and Colgate-Rochester and Drew theological seminaries.

He wrote several religious texts, including “Biblical Truth and Modern Man,” that detailed a way to look at the Bible that was neither fundamentalist nor anti-spiritual, according to the article.