Rachel Held Evans, Popular Christian Author and Speaker, Dies at 37 After Short Illness

Author Rachel Held Evans. Courtesy photo

Rachel Held Evans, a popular progressive Christian writer and speaker, died Saturday morning (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 the 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, 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,” her husband Dan Evans wrote in an update on Evan’s 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.”

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SOURCE: Religion News Service, Emily McFarlan Miller