Colin Hart, 1963-2024: ‘A great Christian warrior’

Colin Hart did as much to proclaim the relevance of biblical truth to every area of life as any leading UK evangelical of the last 50 years.

He devoted his life to persuading Christians that their beliefs had to go further than personal piety, church life and evangelism – they should influence our families, our work, our local communities and our nation. He wanted believers to grasp that following Jesus transforms all aspects of our lives, so that we might be better prepared to live out the Christian faith in public as well as in private.

This desire was encouraged and strengthened by his great friend and mentor, John Burn. It was a friendship that would shape Colin’s thoughts and actions for the rest of his life.

Driven by this sense of calling to equip Christians for action, on 21 March 1990, together with a group of close Christian friends and professionals, they launched The Christian Institute. John Burn became Chairman; Colin its first Director. It was a position he would hold until his death.

Starting out

Born in West Sussex on 18 August 1963, Colin moved north in 1981 to study Mathematics at the University of Newcastle. He had come to faith in Christ in his teens and confessed to being more fervent about evangelism than his studies. Regular door-knocking in the halls of residence led him to consider entering the mission field and he attended as many conferences as he could, exploring God’s call on his life.

This never materialised, at least not in the way he was expecting, and instead he became a maths teacher in a local secondary school.

Years later he would admit, somewhat sheepishly, that a faulty understanding of what it meant to be in ‘ministry’ left him feeling like he would be on ‘Track B’ for the rest of his life.

He had come to faith in Christ in his teens and confessed to being more fervent about evangelism than his studies.

Then in 1988 the Government proposed major changes to the school curriculum for England and Wales. John and Colin noticed that religious education played no part in the plans, still less Christianity. Seeking to combat this, they teamed up with Baroness Caroline Cox, and at the tender age of 24 Colin’s political campaigning journey had begun.

That campaign succeeded. But instead of simply carrying on as before, it led to bigger questions. Where are the robust Christian voices in the public square? How can Christians influence the law, politics and culture?

For Colin, the bulk of the answer came in two parts. The first in the vision to create a Christian school – quickly realised in the form of Emmanuel City Technology College. The second was to establish a Christian institute to conduct and share high quality research. A gift of £20,000 enabled Colin to leave his teaching job in January 1989 and begin to turn this second part of the vision into reality.

His work over the next 35 years has helped shape the UK’s legal, political and cultural landscape.

Nation-shaping work

The initial focus on education expanded to cover religious liberty, free speech, marriage and the family, gambling, drugs, pornography and prostitution, and, of course, the sanctity of life. Indeed, it was one of the greatest joys of Colin’s life to see how during those years the dominant view among evangelicals shifted so markedly from being indifferent on abortion to being resolutely pro-life.

An organisation which for the first four years of its life operated out of a spare bedroom has grown to 48 staff, with offices in Newcastle, Glasgow, Belfast and south Wales. A supporter base of around 250 and a handful of churches has expanded to around 60,000, including well over 5,000 churches across the denominational spectrum.

That 35-year history is full of landmark campaigns and legal cases. In recent years, the Supreme Court victories in the famous Ashers ‘gay cake’ case and over the Scottish Government’s infamous ‘Named Person’ scheme have become embedded in the public consciousness as well as the legal text books. But these are only some of the more recent milestones in a long line of nation-shaping work.

These days it is taken for granted that a church can employ youth workers and other staff who actually adhere to the Christian faith. But this is only the case because of work Colin led to oppose the overreach of equality laws.

In 2006 he famously helped engineer a rare Blair Government defeat in the House of Commons over plans for a religious hatred law which would almost certainly have been used to clamp down on gospel preaching. The final win, by just one vote, was an important reminder of the sovereignty of God.

Trusting God

Colin’s unfailing trust in that sovereignty was his source of comfort for those battles which were lost. Chief among these was undoubtedly the redefinition of marriage under David Cameron’s government. Colin established the Coalition for Marriage (C4M) in 2012, and set about campaigning energetically and encouraging all those who remained true to the global, historical definition of marriage to do the same.

Understanding Francis Schaeffer’s distinction between being a “cobelligerent” and an “ally”, he not only thought it acceptable to work with those of other faiths and none, he encouraged it. Inevitably it brought criticism, but Colin placed great value on the neglected doctrine of common grace. He rejoiced in the fact that, because all human beings are made in God’s image, believers do not have a monopoly on wisdom. His moral law is written on the heart of us all. In His sovereignty, God uses those who don’t know Him for good – as He used the pagan king Cyrus as His ‘anointed shepherd’ (Isaiah 44 and 45).

Though the marriage campaign was unsuccessful, Colin never regretted the effort that went into this or any other issue. He would say that, win or lose, it was important to stand up for the truth. In the case of C4M, he also rightly anticipated that those who campaigned to redefine marriage would not stop. He foresaw that advocates of real marriage risked being marginalised: that there would be pressure on churches to perform same-sex weddings and retribution for individuals who would not support it. Time proved him right.

win or lose, it was important to stand up for the truth

Seeing the future impact of legislation was one of his standout abilities. In 2004 he was one of the few to publicly oppose the Gender Recognition Act, a law that has led to the idea that men have a ‘right’ to use women’s changing rooms. The following year he warned of the damage to society that would result from wholesale gambling deregulation. Sadly, this too has come to pass. This gift remained with him to the end. In the days preceding his death, he was challenging Michael Gove’s new definition of ‘extremism’. In short, he was always mindful of the need for vigilance in protecting our hard-won Christian freedoms.

Thinking ‘Christianly’

But, important though the campaigns were to him, Colin always placed greatest value on his role instructing other Christians to ‘think Christianly’. This came through in his eagerness for Institute staff to connect the truth of the Christian faith to the issues of the day. It was also the foundation of the Institute’s work with churches around the UK and latterly the Republic of Ireland.

It was this priority that was set out in the first ‘mission statement’ of The Christian Institute:

“The Christian Institute exists to affirm the universal Lordship of Christ, to challenge humanism, pluralism, and other ideologies, to proclaim biblical truth as relevant to every area of life, and to equip Christians for action.”

It is a priority to which, under God, the Institute remains committed today.

‘A great Christian warrior’

His close friend of many years, former Institute Chairman John Burn, said:

“I first met Colin when he shared his vision for a Christian parent/teacher association for schools on Tyneside. I was head of Longbenton Community High School and, hearing I was a Christian, he was determined to enlist my support. I agreed to work with him and there began a long and important friendship.

an exciting and dedicated man of Christian vision

“He had a wonderful idea for a Christian school and was a key person in the development of what became Emmanuel College, Gateshead. It was also the start of a conversation about the need to create a Christian institute which would encourage believers to be involved in the affairs of the world.

“He was an exciting and dedicated man of Christian vision and a great Christian warrior with a passion for Jesus Christ. His impact upon many was considerable. I personally learned a great deal from him. His value as a Christian friend was immense and I feel his loss keenly.

“But although his passing has created great personal sadness, I can but rejoice that the Lord has taken him into His presence. And I feel confident that when he came face to face with his Saviour, he would hear: ‘Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy lord’.”

‘Passionate for Christ’

Current Chairman Revd Dr Richard Turnbull said:

“Training, teaching and equipping Christians to think was central to Colin’s vision. So, perhaps not surprisingly, we first met when he came to see me while I was Principal of a theological college. Our friendship grew from there and we would often speak on a wide range of matters.

“Eventually, I joined the trustee body, in time succeeding John Burn as Chairman. Colin was a delight to work with, John also. We would so often just talk, chat, discuss the issues of the day.

“I admired his humility. He was a man of deep Christian faith and, aware that he did not have all the gifts, constantly put others forward.

“I admired his continued commitment to theological training of the staff; a well-taught people of God is the greatest bulwark against error. He developed the Autumn Lectures, a set piece series in Newcastle, enabling invited speakers to address a wider audience.

“Above all, I admired his faith. He was passionate for Christ, in his own life and in the public life of the nation. His vision was ahead of his times, knowing that we would as a nation face so many challenges around education, Christian values, religious liberty and the ability to preach and teach the Christian faith.

“I thank God for Colin’s life and vision and, saddened though we are by his death, we rejoice that he is now in the presence of his Lord and Saviour.”

A champion of truth

In his own tribute The Christian Institute’s Acting Director Ciarán Kelly added:

“It is impossible to sum up the man I knew in just a few words. Colin was much more than a boss, he was a mentor and a friend who inspired loyalty by modelling humble, sacrificial Christian service. Above all, he was a brother in Christ. He has shaped my life for the better, as he has so many.

He exemplified the declaration of the Psalmist: “Oh, how I love your law!

“He was not one to seek the limelight, but he never allowed this natural modesty to prevent him speaking out on issues of national significance. While others remained silent, Colin tackled these issues boldly and faithfully under the conviction that the Bible sets out God’s good design not only for the Church, but for all of society.

“But his tireless work for The Christian Institute was not for its own sake; his constant motivation was his love for the Lord Jesus Christ and gratitude for what He had done at Calvary.

“He exemplified the declaration of the Psalmist: “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” (Psalm 119:97), championing the truth that God’s moral law remains powerful, relevant and life-giving in our own day.

“The loss to the Church and the nation, as well as the Institute, is enormous: ‘a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel’.”


Read additional public tributes.


Colin John Hart died suddenly of a heart attack on Wednesday 13 March at his home in Newcastle upon Tyne.

His funeral was held on 27 March 2024 at All Saints Presbyterian Church, Newcastle upon Tyne – the church at which he worshipped weekly. A memorial service will take place in London later in the year.

He is survived by his mother Rita and brother Terry.


Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  John 11: 25-26