Rachel Held Evans steps back from the blogosphere for some praying, yellin' and reflection

Photo by Maki Garcia Evans

Popular blogger and bestselling author Rachel Held Evans has announced she is taking a step back from blogging to "pray and yell and listen and reflect" following an intense period of theological debate.

With over 40,000 Twitter followers, Evans is well-known for engaging in discussion about some of the more contentious issues dealt with by the Church. She is passionate about gender equality both within marriage and in leadership, and is keen to open dialogue about the way in which homosexuals are welcomed and encouraged into community.

She is also invariably and refreshingly open about big questions of faith, doubt and scepticism, the tension between liberal and conservative Christianity and what church unity really looks like, which has no doubt increased her following. Those with polarised views are invited to engage with one another and grapple with the most divisive of issues on the blog, which has created a unique space for honest conversation.

More recently, Evans expressed her support for World Vision's decision to allow employees to enter into same-sex marriages, and later her disappointment when the move was reversed; consequently sharing that she is considering a move away from the evangelical church.

"Instead of fighting for a seat at the evangelical table, I want to prepare tables in the wilderness, where everyone is welcome and where we can go on discussing (and debating!) the Bible, science, sexuality, gender, racial reconciliation, justice, church, and faith, but without labels, without wars," she wrote in a blog on April 1.

The decision to embark upon a period of reflection is unusual for someone so vocal about the need to generate discussion, and yet perhaps unsurprising given the intensity of recent debates and the backlash Evans has received.

"All the flippant 'farewells' and hate mail and parody accounts and challenges to my faith wouldn't sting as much if they were coming from the 'outside' rather than the 'inside'," she notes.

"Instead of speaking from this place of pain and confusion, I just need to listen for a while," she wrote on April 3.

"I think a lot of us are working through some feelings of grief as we find ourselves struggling, perhaps for the first time, with our religious identity.

"May we learn to sit in this grief with open hearts and minds. May God be close to the brokenhearted."

It will be interesting to see how this conversation develops, as Evans is by no means alone in questioning her convictions and searching out her religious identity in light of recent shifts within the Church.

British theologian Vicky Beeching is also opening dialogue about homosexuality on her blog, which has already received over 20,000 views and been shared almost 2,000 times on social media.