NEW YORK , Christian author Rachel Held Evans, who died May 2019 at 37 years old, left behind a loyal following. A children's book she had been working on was published posthumously last June and quickly topped the picture-book bestsellers lists.
Her final book for adults, "Wholehearted Faith", will be published next week. It is addressed to Christians who struggle with doubts but do not want to give up on their faith.
She writes that wholeheartedness is the ability to ask bold questions and know that God loves us regardless of our circumstances.
The book opens with Daniel Evans' poignant foreword and Jeff Chu's introduction. Jeff Chu is an author, editor, and close friend who was hired by Daniel to finish her manuscript.
The manuscript had approximately 11,000 words. Chu expanded the manuscript five times by scouring Held Evans' blogs and speeches and cutting passages from her books. One of them was "A Year of Biblical Womanhood", a New York Times bestseller.
Chu stated in an interview that many people are focused on the problems with Christianity and the church. Chu said that while she didn't hesitate to name these things, she also emphasized the good aspects of Christianity and what Jesus had taught.
The book's prologue pays tribute to women, both those found in the Bible and those from Held Evans' family tree.
She relates her childhood and youth. She won the Best Christian Attitude award at Alabama's elementary school and was president of the high school's Bible Club.
While at college, doubts about her faith surfaced. She recalls asking her fellow evangelicals how they could think of those outside their faith as being condemned to hell.
She writes, "It is not difficult to admit that many people in the church have been agents for death for many women, queer and trans persons, people of color, immigrants and refugees, disabled people, and for any other minority." "Many people in the church haven't proclaimed good news. They have not declared hope, possibility, justice, and welcome."
Held Evans was eventually made an Episcopalian, a mainline Protestant denomination that includes women, people with color, and LGBTQ people as its leaders.
Her idea of God evolved as well.
She writes, "The God that I have come to believe is not some stiff grandpa in heaven, waiting for my slip up." Instead, I have come to see God through the acts of God... That God is the architect and engineer of creation and that God is the master craftsman who created the idea of the heart.
An article in which Held Evans expressed regret for holding anti-LGBTQ views once and lamented the fact that many evangelicals still hold them today was one of the many works left unfinished. It was posted by Danial Evans on her blog in October 2019.
Held Evans wrote, "I affirm LGBTQ people since they are human beings created in God's image," "I affirm their sexual orientations, gender identities and faith because they reflect God's goodness creation."
Chu, who lives in Grand Rapids with his wife in Michigan, raised similar themes in his 2013 book "Does Jesus Really Like Me?" "A Gay Christian's Pilgrimage to Find God in America"
Held Evans was the first person to contact him after learning that Chu's book was being written. She asked his publisher "How can you help?" and quickly invited Chu to guest post on her blog.
Although the two writers had a similar outlook on LGBTQ issues, Chu was thankful that this wasn't their foundation for their eight-year friendship.
He said, "We just spoke about life." "She was one rare person who accepted me as I was and didn't discriminate against the gay parts."
Held Evans died from brain swelling after a medically-induced coma. She had suffered brain seizures during multiple illnesses and was now in a coma. Chu was with Daniel Evans at the hospital the night she died - evidence of their close friendship over the years.
Evans stated, "The reason that I chose him (to finish my book) was because of his extraordinary talent and who he is as friend." "Jeff is a great understanding of Rachel's situation."
Evans, 41, stated that he is multitasking at his family home in Dayton (Tennessee) - trying to be a good dad to Henry, 5, and Harper, 3, and working hard to publish Held Evans' posthumous books.
He said, "What I'm most learning is how to be OK with multiple emotions -- feeling deep grief and deep joy simultaneously." "I am extremely happy that this book is out there."
One of his favourite chapters focuses on a phrase Held Evans used as a personal mantra: Thick skin, tender soul.
He stated that the phrase summarized her approach to critics of conservative evangelicalism on social media.
Evans stated that "a lot of people used [her] as a symbol to represent everything they believe is wrong." It was sometimes difficult.
Evans claimed that Held Evans was writing four books for children when she died. He hopes that all of them will eventually be published.
Evans has a special status for the book "What is God Like?" that appeared in June. It is the first book Held Evans has read to his children.
Evans stated, "Henry is aware that Mommy wrote it,"
Held Evans, who co-authored the book with Matthew Paul Turner encourages children to think about what makes them feel safe, loved, and brave. This is what God looks like.
Daniel Evans tweeted about the book after it was published.
"I'm agnostic. God seems unlikely to me. I don't believe prayer heals. He wrote that if it did, people who prayed for healing would be more likely to get their ailments under control than those who don't pray. "But, if I believe again, it will not be in the God Rachel understood. I pray for the God of "What is God Like?"