"Chuck's life demonstrated the power of God and of Truth to change hearts and transform lives. He was a man of courage who called Christians to take a stand for religious freedom, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family," said Alliance Defense Fund CEO and longtime friend of Colson's, Alan Sears.
Influential evangelical leader, Charles Wendell "Chuck" Colson died Saturday afternoon in Fairfax, Virginia. He was hospitalized March 30 after suffering an intracerebral hemorrhage and underwent surgery to remove a blood clot in his brain. He was 80. Colson is survived by his wife, Patty, three children, and five grandchildren.
During Colson's time in the hospital, Executive Director of Summit Ministries, John Stonestreet took over hosting duties for the radio program. Last Friday, Stonestreet spoke about the life and impact of Colson, not only on him, but on evangelical leaders around the country.
Stonestreet said that "quantifying his [Colson's] impact would be impossible. I meet those who have been impacted by him all the time -- they read his books, or they listen to BreakPoint, or maybe their children were loved by Angel Tree volunteers while they were incarcerated, or they found Jesus Christ after hearing his story of redemption."
He also noted that "Chuck was doing social justice before it was cool. He went from prisoner, to prison minister, to prison reformer."
And Stonestreet said it's important to remember that "Chuck taught us that social justice, and any cultural work, must be undergirded by Truth, Truth with a capital T. For Chuck, Biblical worldview is more than theoretical posturing, it's embracing and living out Truth with courage. And that Truth sets us free."
While most evangelicals know Colson as the founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries, he made headlines early in his career with the Nixon White House as one of the Watergate Seven. As a Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon he pleaded guilty and was convicted of obstruction of justice during the scandal.
Shortly before serving a seven month sentence at Alabama's Maxwell Prison, Colson had a conversion to Christianity.
Through what he learned in prison and his newfound faith, Colson said he felt God calling him to start a ministry centered around prison reform. Thus Prison Fellowship Ministries was born, an organization he led to become the nation's largest faith-based outreach to prisoners and their families.
In addition to prison outreach, Colson also launched Justice Fellowship, a Christian public policy organization focused on criminal reform. He authored more than 30 books and hosted a radio program called BreakPoint, which provided "a Christian perspective on modern news and trends."
While Colson was a tireless advocated of social justice, he was also a champion for Biblical truths and finding common ground among Christian denominations.
In the mid-90s he co-wrote "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" with Richard John Neuhaus, a prominent Roman Catholic, as an initiative to show the commonalities between the two groups.
In 2009 he was one of the key writers for the Manhattan Declaration, a 4,700 word document that brought evangelicals, Catholics and Orthodox Christians together to defend "the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty [and to] adhere firmly to their convictions in these three areas."
Even up until his final speech at the Wilberforce Weekend Conference, Colson was focused on Christians in culture, and firmly believed that their voices had a right to be heard in the public arena.
He said the problem today is that Christians are often accused of "imposing" their beliefs on the larger society. But Colson told those in the crowd, "Don't let them tell you that. We don't impose anything. We propose."
Colson emphasized that the real answer in changing culture for the better is renewing the church, but it's also giving others "an invitation to the wedding feast, to come to a better way of living. A better way of life. It's the great proposal."