Rachel Held Evans, a prophetic voice in the progressive Christian church, went to be with the Lord on May 4, 2019. Evans fought a brief health battle during which time she was placed in a medically induced coma. She did not recover.
“I keep hoping it’s a nightmare from which I’ll awake. I feel like I’m telling someone else’s story,” Evans’ husband, Dan, wrote in an update on his wife’s website.
On April 14, Evans announced to her followers on Twitter that she had been hospitalized for “a flu + UTI combo and a severe allergic reaction to the antibiotics they gave me.” By the 19th, doctors had placed Evans in a medically induced coma because she was suffering seizures. Support for Evans’ family and prayers flowed in from readers and other faith leaders. Some of Evans’ friends and colleagues set up a GoFundMe page to try to assuage the medical costs the Evans family rapidly incurred.
Dan’s full update is included below:
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.
How Will Rachel Held Evans Be Remembered?
In an interview with Slate, Dan shared about her character:
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.
It is significant that Dan mentioned Evans’ aversion to pettiness. Evans was known in the evangelical world for asking questions about long-held tenants and generally trying to rock the status-quo. She frequently questioned male leaders in the evangelical church like Russell Moore, John Piper, Rod Dreher and Mark Driscoll. Eventually, she became fed up with “evangelicalism’s culture wars” and left the evangelical church to join the Episcopalian community. Still, Evans was widely read by evangelicals and mainline protestants alike.
Evans was a big voice in the #exvangelical community and those who have gone or are going through a crisis of faith. Her work speaks about doubt, unbelief and trying to hold on to a faith that often does not make sense in light of the harsh realities of our world. Evans wrote about her faith evolving into a deeper, richer experience as she wrestled through questions like whether Scripture is inerrant and whether patriarchy serves as a prescription or simply a backdrop in the Bible.