Colson was speaking at a Wilberforce Weekend Conference sponsored by the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview in northern Virginia on Friday (March 30) when his speech became garbled and he had to sit down, according to witnesses at the event. He was taken by helicopter to a nearby hospital, where he underwent evaluation and then surgery early Saturday (March 31).
Prison Fellowship CEO Jim Liske said the surgery for the 80-year-old Colson was successful.
"Chuck is resting comfortably, and his family is with him. He is heavily sedated (which is appropriate in the aftermath of this kind of procedure) and is responding well," Liske said in a prepared statement on Monday.
Tuesday night (April 3), the organization updated that statement, saying that Colson was in critical condition and had suffered an intracerebral hemorrhage, which is when blood vessels in the brain begin bleeding. A statement Wednesday said he still is listed in critical condition "but has shown some early signs of potential for recovery."
Liske, who visited Colson in the hospital on Tuesday, said, "I was encouraged to see that as we prayed, Chuck was responsive."
Colson founded Prison Fellowship in 1976, just over a year after serving a seven-month prison sentence on obstruction of justice charges stemming from his role in the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974. As special counsel under Nixon, Colson became known as the "hatchet man" for his role in vilifying others to cover up illegal White House activities.
Colson resigned from the Nixon White House in 1973 and converted to Christianity after reading C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity." In 1974 he was indicted on the Watergate-related charges and pleaded guilty. He received a one-to-three-year sentence and served seven months at the Maxwell Federal Prison Camp in Alabama. When word of Colson's conversion to Christianity reached the press, The Boston Globe reported, "If Mr. Colson can repent of his sins, there just has to be hope for everybody."
As his official Prison Fellowship biography notes, Colson never really left prison. Upon his release he founded the prison outreach organization that today serves in 113 countries ministering to prisoners and their families. It spawned Justice Fellowship, a public policy organization that lobbies for criminal justice reform, and BreakPoint, a radio ministry heard daily on 1,200 stations with a weekly listening audience estimated at 8 million.
In 2009 Colson participated in the drafting and became a lead signatory of the Manhattan Declaration, a statement on conscience and marriage endorsed by Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox and evangelical leaders. Today the pronouncement's online petition has half-a-million signatures and has become a foundational statement for groups that support traditional marriage and religious liberty.
Mindy Belz writes for World Magazine. This story first appeared at the magazine's website, WorldMag.com.
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