Young Christians inspired to speak of Jesus in public life

Christian Concern's fourth Wilberforce Academy brought together students and young graduates at Trinity College, Oxford last week.

The academy is held annually by the advocacy group to equip the next generation of Christian leaders in public life.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey opened the three-day gathering with a call to "maintain a public witness and stand just as much as Wilberforce was called upon to do in his day".

"You are like shock troops who are called to lead in the battle… You are here to take the fight wherever it leads," he said.

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali expanded on the themes of his new book, Triple Jeopardy for the West, in which he warns of the challenges posed by aggressive secularism, radical Islamism and multiculturalism.

Roger Trigg, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick, highlighted the importance of religious freedom as a cornerstone for other vital freedoms.

The academy was joined by Gary McFarlane, who lost a legal challenge against Relate after he was dismissed for saying he would not be able to provide sex therapy to gay couples because of his Christian beliefs.

He shared the story of opposition to his beliefs as he encouraged people to take a stand for Jesus in the public square.

The academy itself experienced some opposition when pictures of Jesus with the caption "Trinity students in support of gay marriage" were left on the conference bookstall.

Despite this, delegates went away encouraged to speak up for their faith in public life.

One delegate remarked: "The one slogan I'm taking away is: 'changed people, change culture,' and that's what I intend to do when I walk out of here."

Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, commented: "The Wilberforce Academy is one of the most important things we do at Christian Concern – equipping the next generation of Christian leaders in public life.

"The delegates have heard from the leaders in their field who set an inspiring example of how to live and speak for Jesus in the public square. They have received some very high quality input that will serve them well as they embark on their careers as disciples of Jesus.

"I have been very impressed by both the calibre and passion of the delegates this year. It's my prayer and expectation that God will raise up this next generation to speak the truth in love to a nation that desperately needs to hear it.

"With so many attendees from other parts of the world, the Wilberforce Academy is also set to have a global impact for God's kingdom. We are very thankful to him for such an inspiring few days."