I didn’t know Rachel Held Evans. Of course, I’d heard of her. She was a powerhouse in progressive churchy circles. She had done so much to expand the limited lenses we use to understand God. She was a voice (the voice?) for many evangelically-raised Christians, struggling in a modern world with what their faith means and should look like.
And now she’s gone, after a sudden illness. She was 37.
I might not have known Rachel personally during her time on earth, but many of the people of faith that I do know and admire were close friends of hers. Some of them are in the RCA. Some of them have spoken at Room for All conferences, or offered me comfort when the church felt too aggressive or hurtful. Some of Rachel’s dear friends expanded my own limited understanding of faith. Inadvertently, she had a role in that.
Rachel Held Evans changed lives. She changed peoples’ perceptions of faith and the church. Those lives she touched? They went on to shape others. I’m one of those. I’m tremendously grateful for the radically welcoming and inclusive voice that Rachel brought to the church. By her own admission, she was once pretty conservative. But she allowed herself to ask questions. She grew. She became an outspoken voice of liberation and support for LGBTQ people in the church. She was an ally to so many groups that the church traditionally seeks to exclude. She questioned and she used her voice and privilege for tremendous good. She will be deeply missed.
Cameron Van Kooten Laughead is Room for All’s Associate Director.