THE Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, the Most Revd Michael Curry, has paid tribute to the best-selling Christian author and blogger Rachel Held Evans, who died last Saturday, aged 37.
Mrs Evans had been placed into a medically induced coma on Good Friday after her brain began experiencing constant seizures during treatment for an infection. On Thursday of last week, doctors discovered extreme swelling in her brain; despite attempting to stabilise her, she died last Saturday morning. She leaves a husband, Dan, and two young children.
Mrs Evans acquired a large following online as a blogger, who questioned some of the tenets of her conservative Evangelical upbringing. She was a member of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
The title of her first book, Evolving in Monkey Town (later renamed Faith Unravelled), published in 2010, referred to her home town of Dayton, Tennessee, the location of the Scopes Monkey Trial; it was, she wrote “about moving from certainty, through doubt, to faith”.
Her next book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, documented her attempts to follow ten “biblical woman’s commandments” (Features, 14 December 2012) and, in so doing, questioned supposedly “biblical” notions of womanhood.
Searching for Sunday, published in 2015, was about the Church, centred around seven sacraments. In the book, she wrote about her joining the Episcopal Church. Inspired, published last year, dealt with the doctrine and interpretation of scripture.
Bishop Curry said on Sunday: “Today is a sad day for our Church and for everyone who found the path home to our loving, liberating, life-giving God because of Rachel Held Evans. She was a fearless seeker of truth and servant of Jesus, and her witness will inspire and heal generations to come.”
After Mrs Evans’s death was announced, thousands posted messages on Twitter about how she had influenced their faith, using the hashtag #BecauseOfRHE.
The former Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wrote on Twitter, on Tuesday, that Mrs Evans had “lived a life of generosity, justice-seeking, and inclusive faith. So many people were touched by her voice and her example”
The Bishop of Penrith, Dr Emma Ineson, posted: “Very sad to hear that Rachel Held Evans has died. She wrote with humour and grace, and will be hugely missed. Prayers for her husband, Dan, and their children.”
Read more on the story in Andrew Brown’s press column