NEW YORK (AP) — Christian author Rachel Held Evans left behind a legion of loyal readers when she died in May 2019, at the age of 37. Last June, a children’s book she’d been working on was published posthumously and soon topped the picture-book bestseller lists.
Next week, her final book for adults is being published, titled “Wholehearted Faith”. It’s addressed to Christians like herself who sometimes wrestle with doubts about their faith yet do not want to abandon it.
“Wholeheartedness means that we can ask bold questions, knowing that God loves us not just in spite of them but also because of them,” she writes in the new book.
The book opens with a poignant forward by her husband, Daniel Evans, and an introduction by Jeff Chu, an author, editor and close friend of the couple who was recruited by Daniel to flesh out her unfinished manuscript.
That manuscript was roughly 11,000 words in length. Chu expanded it fivefold, scouring through Held Evans’ blog posts and speeches, and through passages that were cut from her previous books. Among them was a New York Times bestseller, “A Year of Biblical Womanhood.”
“So many of us are fixated on what’s wrong with Christianity or the church,” Chu said in an interview. “She didn’t shy away from naming those things, but she always emphasized what is right about our faith and what was good about what Jesus had to say.”
The book’s prologue is a tribute to women — those in the Bible, and more recent figures from Held Evans’ own family tree.
She recounts her childhood and youth, growing up in a deeply religious family, winning the Best Christian Attitude award at her elementary school in Alabama and serving as president of her high school’s Bible Club.
Doubts about her faith surfaced while attending college. She recalls wondering how many of her fellow evangelicals could consider those outside their own faith to be condemned to hell.
“I am not afraid to say that many in the church have been agents of death for many women, for queer and trans people, for people of color, for immigrants and refugees, for disabled people, for all manner of minority,” she writes. “Many in the church have not proclaimed good news. They have not declared hope and possibility, justice and welcome.”
Eventually, Held Evans became an Episcopalian — a mainline Protestant denomination with women, people of color and LGBTQ people among its leaders.
Her concept of God also evolved.
“The God I have come to believe in is not some stern grandpa in the sky, waiting for me to slip up,” she writes. “Instead, I’ve come to see God through the things that God has done… That God is the architect of creation, the engineer of love, and the master craftsman who came up with the idea of the heart.”
Among the numerous works left unfinished when Held Evans died was an article voicing remorse for having once held anti-LGBTQ views and bemoaning the fact that many evangelicals still do. Danial Evans posted it on her blog in October 2019.