Nadia Bolz-Weber added to Speakers at Conference

August 6, 2019

Today in News That Makes Perfect Sense, we are thrilled to announce that public theologian and three-time New York Times bestselling author Nadia Bolz-Weber will be joining us at Evolving Faith 2019.

In addition to her 2013 memoir, the bitingly honest and inspiring Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint, which was followed by Accidental Saints in 2015, Nadia has reignited a long-overdue conversation on shame, sexuality, and freedom with her latest book Shameless: A Sexual Reformation. A former stand-up comic and a recovering alcoholic, Nadia is also the founder and former pastor of a Lutheran congregation right in Denver, House for All Sinners and Saints. She speaks at colleges and conferences around the globe. 

Nadia is also a very dear friend to us. And she was deeply beloved by our friend, the late Rachel Held Evans, with whom she founded the Why Christian conference. After the tragic loss of Rachel three months ago, Nadia graciously came alongside of us in many ways, both seen and unseen, and we are grateful for her love and pastoral guidance. Welcoming our sister Nadia to our sacred space this year feels exactly right for all of us. 

There was never a question for us about Nadia's role at Evolving Faith: She will be presiding over communion for our community, a much-beloved and powerful experience that wraps up our time together beautifully. The Table of the Lord was a deep passion of Rachel's work, a place where she encountered grace for herself and for all of us fellow wanderers and wonderers. It's a place where God is in charge of the guest list, not us, and all are welcome. 

We are genuinely honored to add Nadia’s voice and experience to our team of leaders in Denver. Please join us in welcoming her.

Announcing the Evolving Faith Scholarship Program

May 21, 2019

Gather round, friends. We have some good news today. We are so excited to announce the inaugural Evolving Faith Scholarship Program! 

We are funding five scholarships for underrepresented minorities. Each scholarship includes both a ticket to Evolving Faith AND up to $300 (USD) in travel and lodging reimbursement. 

But here's more good news: those five scholarships are only the beginning! 

We have set aside 100 tickets. And everyone can contribute to the dream of funding as many scholarship winners as we can. Every time we hit $500 in our scholarship sponsor fund, we'll award another one. And we'll keep going until all 100 scholarships are awarded or the conference arrives - whichever one comes first. If you are able to partner with us, we are grateful. Simply click here to contribute to a scholarship.

Submissions are open until June 30, 2019. The Evolving Faith leadership team will read all of the applications and choose the first five scholarship winners. Those winners will be notified beginning on July 19, 2019. (To honor their privacy, they will only be announced publicly with their permission.) The rest of the winners will be notified as more scholarships are sponsored. 

If you would like to apply for a scholarship, click here.  

Evolving Faith is committed to creating a diverse, inclusive space for everyone. One thing our friend Rachel believed deeply was that there is always more room - and we agree with her. We believe that this scholarship program will not only be a blessing to those who would otherwise be unable to attend Evolving Faith but it will truly create a richer experience for all of us.

See you all in Denver!

- Sarah and Jeff (and Jim)

Welcome Tanya Marlow!


May 17, 2019

We are thrilled to announce that writer and disability activist Tanya Marlow will be joining us as a keynote speaker at Evolving Faith 2019.Tanya Marlow is a writer, campaigner, and broadcaster whose work focuses on the spirituality of suffering and creative ways of retelling the Bible. A popular writer on the topics and intersections of both faith and disability, her work has been published in mainstream outlets such as The Guardian and The Spectator and she’s given interviews for BBC TV and radio. She has a post-graduate qualification in pastoral counseling which has deeply enriched her work and she gives occasional lectures in practical theology and pastoral care. Her latest book is "Those Who Wait: Finding God in Disappointment, Doubt and Delay."  

Before 2010, Tanya had been in ministry for ten years and was a lecturer in biblical theology. Her life changed when, overnight, she gained a baby and became almost entirely bed-bound with a severe autoimmune illness. Her journey of non-healing has given her a passion for those on the margins of faith, an allergy to trite answers about suffering and a commitment to honest theology about where God is when life falls apart.  

Tanya is an active campaigner with #MEAction Network for medical equality for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis patients. 

Since Tanya is primarily housebound, she will be - in a first for Evolving Faith -  delivering her keynote address and participating in her session's Q&A via video link to us at Denver University. It is our shared belief that those with disabilities and/or chronic illness must be fully welcomed as leaders and we are incredibly grateful that Tanya has been game to explore how to make this experimental format work. Our hope is to set a precedent that will be replicated not only by ourselves in the future but also by other conferences to include, honor, and learn from those who are unable to travel to be physically present due to disability and/or chronic illness. We are genuinely honored to add her voice and experience to our team of leaders. (And on that note, we are currently working to provide an live-stream option for this event as well. Stay tuned.)


Evolving Faith Welcomes Dr. Grace Kao as the Gathering's Spiritual Friend

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May 16, 2019

The Evolving Faith gathering stirs up so much for many of us. We’ve been thinking hard about how best to accompany and serve those gathered. Which is why we’re so delighted that Dr. Grace Kao will be joining us to serve as the gathering’s Spiritual Friend.

Grace will offer meditations to open each day. She will be present to all attendees, listening, conversing, and accompanying—with a particular focus on people of color (PoC). It’s a role we take incredibly seriously, especially as we seek to curate a different kind of conference. 

Grace Yia-Hei Kao is Professor of Ethics at the Claremont School of Theology; she also directs its Center for Sexuality, Gender & Religion. A PCUSA laywoman, she credits the immigrant Taiwanese church in which she was raised in So. California for her early spiritual formation.

Grace, an award-winning teacher who has explored human and animal rights as well as Asian American and feminist Christian ethics in her work, is a self-identified thrifter, pescatarian/aspiring vegan, and lapsed scuba diver. With her husband, she co-parents two mixed-race kids. 

The title “Spiritual Friend,” rooted in the Anam Cara tradition, refers to people who commit to coming alongside us for the faith journey. Grace will be a companion to us all, using her pastoral presence, profound curiosity, and deep scholarship to instigate hope and offer care.

As mentioned, she'll also especially focus on PoC at Evolving Faith. She, Alicia Crosby, Kaitlin Curtice, and Jeff Chu will form the core team for a PoC space for reflection and companionship. 

Mourning the death of Rachel Held Evans


May 6, 2019

It is with a broken heart that we share with you that our dear sister and friend Rachel Held Evans has died. She took a serious turn on Thursday morning and deteriorated quickly. Rachel died in the very early morning hours of May 4, 2019. She was surrounded by her family and her close friends - we sang and we prayed and we held her always. We were all with her in these last days.

Here is Dan’s statement from earlier today:

“Rachel was slowly weaned from the coma medication. Her seizures returned but at a reduced rate. There were periods of time where she didn’t have seizures at all. Rachel did not return to an alert state during this process. The hospital team worked to diagnose the primary cause of her seizures and proactively treated for some known possible causes for which diagnostics were not immediately available due to physical limitations.

Early Thursday morning, May 2, Rachel experienced sudden and extreme changes in her vitals. The team at the hospital discovered extensive swelling of her brain and took emergency action to stabilize her. The team worked until Friday afternoon to the best of their ability to save her. This swelling event caused severe damage and ultimately was not survivable.

Rachel died early Saturday morning, May 4, 2019.

This entire experience is surreal. I keep hoping it’s a nightmare from which I’ll awake. I feel like I’m telling someone else’s story. I cannot express how much the support means to me and our kids. To everyone who has prayed, called, texted, driven, flown, given of themselves physically and financially to help ease this burden: Thank you. We are privileged. Rachel’s presence in this world was a gift to us all and her work will long survive her. -

- Dan.”

This article by Ruth Graham at Slate will be Dan's only other public statement at this time. Please give their family the space and time to grieve this tremendous, devastating loss.

As far as what this means for us here at Evolving Faith at this time, the honest answer is that we don’t know how we will carry on without our Rachel. We cannot even imagine it. But we know how much she loved this space, how much she loved all of you, and so we will do our best to do right by her here. At this time, we still intend to gather together in October. If nothing else, we will all be together.

Our hearts are broken.

We are so grateful for your prayers, for your support, for all the ways you have loved and supported Rachel as well as Dan and the kids and even us. We intend to keep their GoFundMe active as the medical costs are tremendous and now there is a whole new reality to imagine for their family.

We also intend to put together a plan for all of us to be able to honour and celebrate Rachel in some way. We will share that when we can. Please be patient with us.


Sarah, Jeff, and Jim