Rachel Held Evans

Woman of Valor (1981–2019)
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Photo credit: © 2009, Maki Evans

As she was being admitted to the hospital for mysterious ailments, Rachel Held Evans posted a final Tweet to her 170,000 followers, appealing to those who are “the praying type.” In typical fashion, she added a lament: “I’m totally going to miss [Game of Thrones]!” Two weeks later, on May 4, 2019, came the astonishing news of her sudden death at thirty-seven, leaving behind a beloved husband and two young children. The outpouring of grief-stricken tributes were evidence of the deep impact she made in her short life. 

Evans grew up in Dayton, Tennessee, home of the “Scope’s Monkey Trial” of 1925. That famous conflict between biblical faith and science loomed large in her lifelong struggle to reconcile the evangelical faith of her upbringing with her own questing mind and heart. “I have come to regard with some suspicion those who claim that the Bible never troubles them. I can only assume this means they haven’t actually read it.” 

In a series of books and blog posts she became an outspoken advocate for Jesus’ spirit of “outrageous compassion,” inclusivity, and empowerment of marginalized voices. She challenged her own evangelical community’s compromises with white supremacy, misogyny, and rejection of LGBT people. She became a source of inspiration and encouragement to countless people struggling to find their home in the Christian story, opening paths for Christians and seekers of all stripes to live their faith with greater courage, integrity, and joy. 

“This is what God’s kingdom is like: a bunch of outcasts and oddballs gathered at a table, not because they are rich or worthy or good, but because they are hungry, because they said yes. And there’s always room for more.”  

—Rachel Held Evans 

© Liturgical Press.

Robert Ellsberg

Robert Ellsberg is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Orbis Books and the author of several award-winning books, including All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time; Blessed Among All Women; and The Saints' Guide to Happiness.

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