Progressive Christian voice Rachel Held Evans passed away on early Saturday morning, to the shock of friends and fans worldwide. Her husband Dan posted the news of her death to her website, writing:
“Rachel died early Saturday morning, May 4, 2019 … 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. 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.”
Evans – or RHE, as she is often referred to – was from Dayton, Tennessee, US, and was the author of a popular blog as well several best-selling books including Searching for Sunday, Faith Unraveled and A Year of Biblical Womanhood.
Evans, 37, was hospitalised in mid-April with the flu. On April 19, her husband Dan informed fans via RHE’s blog that she had been placed in an induced coma after suffering an adverse reaction to antibiotics that were causing seizures. Physicians had been slowly weaning her off the medication that was keeping her in the coma, when, early on Thursday morning, Rachel experienced “sudden and extreme changes in her vitals”.
“The team at the hospital discovered extensive swelling of her brain and took emergency action to stabilize her. The team worked until Friday afternoon to the best of their ability to save her. This swelling event caused severe damage and ultimately was not survivable.”
Evans was known as a bold progressive Christian voice who did not shy away from fierce theological battles with conservative evangelicals on controversial topics. Her written works chronicled her own journey out of conservative evangelical Christianity to becoming part of the progressive Episcopalian church. Evans was openly critical of the more than 80 percent of white evangelical Christians who support Donald Trump for president, “despite his evident immorality, bigotry, and disregard for the dignity of women, (not to mention complete lack of qualification or competency)”.
In death, though, RHE has unified US Christians, with tributes flowing from Christians of all types:
“Eshet chayil, beloved Woman of Valor. You ran a beautiful, faithful race. We are crushed. Well done, good and faithful servant. @rachelheldevans” posted Jen Hatmaker.
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, posted two tweets,one announcing her death and the other encouraging people to donate to the fund that had been established to cover the family’s medical expenses.
“I am shocked and broken-hearted to hear of the death of @rachelheldevans. Please stop right now and pray for this young family.”
“@rachelheldevans leaves behind a husband and two small children, one 3 and one less than one year old. As many as can, let’s please help this grieving young family with the overwhelming medical bills.”
Evans’ last blog post was published on Ash Wednesday, on March 6:
“It strikes me today that the liturgy of Ash Wednesday teaches something that nearly everyone can agree on. Whether you are part of a church or not, whether you believe today or your doubt, whether you are a Christian or an atheist or an agnostic or a so-called ‘none’ (whose faith experiences far transcend the limits of that label) you know this truth deep in your bones: ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.’
“Death is a part of life.
“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.”
Evans’s most recent book was ‘Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again’.