Rachel Held Evans, progressive Christian writer, dies at age 37

Rachel Held Evans, author of 'A Year of Biblical Womanhood.'
Rachel Held Evans, author of "A Year of Biblical Womanhood." | Twitter/Rachel Held Evans

Rachel Held Evans, a New York Times best-selling progressive Christian writer, has died at age 37.

Evans died Saturday morning at a hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, after she had been in a medically induced coma for several weeks.

“It is with a broken heart that we share with you that Rachel Held Evans died early this morning. She took a serious turn on Thursday morning and deteriorated quickly. Rachel died in the very early morning hours of May 4, 2019. She was surrounded by her family and her close friends — we sang and we prayed and we held her always. We are grateful for your prayers and for all the ways you have supported not only her but her family especially Dan and the kids,” wrote Sarah Bessey, a feminist Christian author and friend of Evans in an update on the official GoFundMe page for the family.

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In a public statement on the crowdfunding page, Evans' husband, Dan, wrote: 

"Rachel was slowly weaned from the coma medication. Her seizures returned but at a reduced rate. There were periods of time where she didn’t have seizures at all. Rachel did not return to an alert state during this process. The hospital team worked to diagnose the primary cause of her seizures and proactively treated for some known possible causes for which diagnostics were not immediately available due to physical limitations.

"Early Thursday morning, May 2, 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. 

"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." 

In an email to Ruth Graham of Slate on Saturday, Dan Evans added: “She put others before herself. She shared her platform. She always remembered how others had helped her. She enjoyed seeing other people in contexts where they thrived. She didn’t hold grudges, would forget as well as forgive. She had little time for pettiness and a big heart for people. And these are all things I wish I had told her more while I still had the privilege to keep her company.”

Evans announced on April 14 that she was in the hospital to treat the flu and a urinary tract infection and had a severe allergic reaction to antibiotics. She then began experiencing symptoms that caused her to have constant seizures and was admitted to an intensive care unit. 

Jeff Chu, a reporter and friend of Evans, wrote on Twitter Saturday: “She gave me some of the best advice I ever received. She loved me so, so, so well—and I know I'm not alone in that, because she gave so much of herself to others. Last night, a few of us gathered to say goodbye to her. I got to hold her hand and thank her for being who she was.

“Pray for Dan and their two beautiful children. And I love you, Rachel, and I miss you so much already,” he added on Twitter.

Chu and Bessey are co-curators with Evans for the Evolving Faith Conference. They, along with Jim Chaffee, started the GoFundMe page that has raised over $122,000 to help pay for the cost of Evans’ medical care. 

Christian writer Jen Hatmaker, who made headlines in 2015 for voicing support for the legality of same-sex marriage, also shared her reaction on Twitter Saturday: “Eshet chayil, beloved Woman of Valor. You ran a beautiful, faithful race. We are crushed. Well done, good and faithful servant."

Evans was a former evangelical who joined an Episcopal church and operated a blog that is popular among progressive Christians.

She wrote the book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, a New York Times best-selling e-book in 2012. She also authored other titles such as Searching for SundayFaith Unraveled and Inspired.

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, continued to call for an outpouring of support from believers across the political and theological spectrum for Evans' family. 

On Saturday, Moore extended his public condolences in a post on Twitter: "I am shocked and broken-hearted to hear of the death of @rachelheldevans. Please stop right now and pray for this young family."

He also encouraged believers to continue to donate to Evans' family to help pay for  expenses incurred for treatment at the hospital: ".@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." 

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