Author Rachel Held Evans. (Courtesy photo)

Rachel Held Evans, Christian Writer of Honesty and Humor, Dies

Rachel Held Evans, a popular Christian writer and speaker, died May 4 at age 37 after a brief illness.

Evans had been in a medically induced coma for several weeks and never returned to an alert state.

Writer and collaborator Sarah Bessey tweeted that Evans was surrounded by close friends and family at the end, and Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber shared that friends were at Evans’ bedside Friday night, offering “our touch and tears and song. I anointed her with oil.”

Her husband, Dan Evans, informed followers and supporters of his wife’s death on her website.

“This entire experience is surreal. I keep hoping it’s a nightmare from which I’ll awake. I feel like I’m telling someone else’s story,” he wrote in an update on Evans’ blog.

“I cannot express how much the support means to me and our kids. To everyone who has prayed, called, texted, driven, flown, given of themselves physically and financially to help ease this burden: Thank you. We are privileged. Rachel’s presence in this world was a gift to us all, and her work will long survive her.”

On April 14, Evans, who was particularly gifted at using social media to connect with her readers, tweeted that she had been admitted to the hospital with a “flu + UTI combo and a severe allergic reaction” to antibiotics, asking for prayer and—with the characteristic humor she often used to defuse difficult conversations—lamenting she would miss Game of Thrones.

Later, in an update on her website, Dan Evans said that she began having “unexpected symptoms” while receiving treatment for an infection and that doctors found her brain was experiencing constant seizures. Doctors had placed her in a medically induced coma while working to determine the cause and treatment, he said.

Evans is best known for her popular blog and best-selling books, including New York Times best-seller A Year of Biblical Womanhood, Searching for Sunday, and, most recently, Inspired. She also served on President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

In her books and blog posts, she wrote openly about her faith journey, which led her from Bryan College—a conservative evangelical school known for promoting belief in a literal, six-day creation—to the mainline Episcopal Church. Along the way, she chronicled her faith, doubt, honest questions, and evolving beliefs with a sense of humor.

That didn’t come without controversy, including pushback from more conservative Christians over A Year of Biblical Womanhood, which celebrated an egalitarian view of women’s roles in both marriage and the church.

But in her writing she rarely lapsed into us-versus-them arguments, instead presenting a vision of the church as a place with room for everyone.

“This is what God’s kingdom is like: a bunch of outcasts and oddballs gathered at a table, not because they are rich or worthy or good, but because they are hungry, because they said yes,” she wrote in Searching for Sunday.

“And there’s always room for more.”

The news of Evans’ hospitalization had been met with an outpouring of support from readers, writers and Christian leaders, both conservative and progressive.

On Good Friday (April 19), Bessey and writer Jeff Chu, who worked with Evans on the Evolving Faith Conference, gathered friends and fans online to pray for Evans. The hashtag they started for the online prayer vigil, #PrayForRHE, soon was trending on Twitter.

A GoFundMe fundraiser to cover medical and related expenses for Evans’ family —including two small children, Henry and Harper—set up the next Monday (April 22) exceeded its goal within a day, even after organizers increased the amount they hoped to raise.

Evans worshiped with her family at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland, Tenn.

“Death is a part of life,” Evans wrote this year in a Facebook post at the beginning of Lent, the solemn time of penance and fasting many Christians observe leading up to Easter.

“My prayer for you this season is that you make time to celebrate that reality, and to grieve that reality, and that you will know you are not alone. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”


Related from The Banner: Book review: Inspired; For Book Clubs: Searching for Sunday; For Book Clubs: A Year of Biblical Womanhood

c. 2019 Religion News Service

The Banner has a subscription to Religion News Service and occasionally re-publishes articles of wide Christian interest, according to the license. This story has been edited for length. The original story can be found here.

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