In 1987, Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson established the Wilberforce Award, an honor intended to celebrate and acknowledge men and women who have publicly lived out their Christian faith, and have had a positive impact on their communities and the world. The award was named after Colson’s hero, William Wilberforce, an 18th Century English parliamentarian who had worked tirelessly to eliminate the slave trade in his country.
This year, the award comes full circle. Colson will be the most recent recipient of the Wilberforce Award, to be awarded at the annual Wilberforce Weekend in Arlington, Virginia, on April 8-10. The posthumous award will be presented as Prison Fellowship celebrates its 40th anniversary, and 25 years after Colson established his nationally syndicatedBreakPoint radio commentaries.
Colson originally gained notoriety as special counsel to President Richard Nixon. After pleading guilty to Watergate-related charges in 1974, he served seven months as a prisoner at the Maxwell Correctional Facility in Alabama. Upon his release, Colson made good on his promise to “remember the prisoner,” and began Prison Fellowship, an outreach to prisoners and their families. Today, Prison Fellowship is the largest prison ministry in the United States, and is active in over 125 countries worldwide through Prison Fellowship International.
In 1993, Colson was awarded the prestigious Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion for his work with prisoners. And in 2015, the Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections was established by Congress to examine challenges in the federal corrections system and to offer practical solutions and reforms.
In addition to his work with Prison Fellowship, Colson was a prolific writer and sought-after speaker. His efforts to foster dialogue between evangelicals and traditional Roman Catholics resulted in Evangelicals and Catholics Together, a treatise on how Christians across theological divides can work together to bring about societal change. The BreakPoint commentaries he started in 1991 are now heard on 1,200 outlets, and online at www.breakpoint.org.
If you are interested in attending the Wilberforce weekend, it is not too late. Visit https://wilberforceweekend.org/ to learn more about the event, and how you can register to attend.