Rachel Held Evans, a former evangelical Christian whose writings affirmed LGBTQ people, championed biblical literacy, and more, died on May 4 following a sudden illness, according to a statement on her website. She was 37.
In a post to his wife’s blog in mid-April, Evans’s husband Daniel announced that Evans had been placed in intensive care under a medically induced coma after an allergic reaction to treatments for an infection had caused constant seizures. The post was updated with news that brain swelling caused by the seizures had ultimately led to her death on May 4.
As the bestselling author of A Year of Biblical Womanhood (Thomas Nelson, 2012) and Searching for Sunday (Thomas Nelson, 2015), Evans continued to wrestle with her faith after announcing that she no longer considered herself an evangelical. She was called a polarizing critic of President Trump who also spoke out about issues related to racism, abortion, and women in the church, and she routinely challenged many conservative Christian beliefs in her writing. Her most recent book, Inspired, examined patriarchy as well as feminism in the Bible. During an interview with PW, she called it “the first book where I feel like I have both the world that I came from and the world I’m in now with my readership."
HarperOne had signed Evans for two new books, Wholehearted Faith and How to Feed God, but a spokesperson for the publisher said that no decisions have been made at this time about their publication. Senior editor at HarperOne Kathryn Hamilton told PW: “I am deeply saddened by the loss of a bright and wonderful life taken too soon. I take comfort that her words and her life will continue to touch so many."
In a statement, HarperCollins Christian Publishing (HCCP) said the publishing teams at both Thomas Nelson and Zondervan are mourning the loss. Brian Hampton, senior v-p and group publisher, added, "We knew Rachel as a strong, curious, and kind person and a writer who was deeply committed to her craft. We are proud to be the publisher of several of Rachel Held Evans’ books, and our thoughts are with Dan and their children.”
Rachelle Gardner of Books and Such Literary, who worked as Evans’s agent, reflected on the author’s “strong mind and her bravery in calling out injustice” in a statement to PW.
“Her commitment to speaking her truth has changed the lives of countless Christians who may have otherwise walked away from faith, and her generosity in sharing her platform has given rise to dozens of authors who are publishing today thanks to Rachel’s leadership,” Gardner added. “This is a tremendous loss to the publishing community, and I will miss her dearly as both as a client and a treasured friend. Our hearts are with Rachel’s family as they navigate the road ahead.”
Authors Jen Hatmaker, Sarah Bessey, Brene Brown, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Beth Moore, and Tim Keller are among many who have shared tributes to Evans on Twitter following news of her death, and donations are being made to a GoFundMe page to support Evans’s husband and their two young children.