The presumptive presidential nominees for the Republican and Democratic parties, Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama, respectively, will make a joint appearance on August 16 at the Saddleback Civil Forum on Leadership and Compassion at Saddleback Church. The 22,000-member mega church, pastored by Dr. Rick Warren, is located in Orange County, California.
Dr. Warren made the announcement on Monday, saying in a statement:
“We're honored that the candidates chose The Saddleback Civil Forum on Leadership and Compassion for their first joint appearance, an unprecedented opportunity for America to hear both men back-to-back on the same platform. This is a critical time for our nation and the American people deserve to hear both candidates speak from the heart - without interruption - in a civil and thoughtful format absent the partisan 'gotcha' questions that typically produce heat instead of light.”
The presidential primaries proved that Americans “care deeply about the faith, values, character and leadership convictions of candidates as much as they do about the issues,” Warren said.
Warren, who will moderate the candidates’ joint event, pledged to be “frank, but fair,” in asking questions “beyond what political reporters typically ask.” These questions will reportedly concern poverty, HIV/AIDS, climate issues and human rights.
The event will last from 5 to 7 pm on August 16. Each candidate will converse separately with Warren for approximately one hour. A coin toss has determined that Sen. Obama will speak first.
Warren emphasized that the event will be held in a non-debate format.
“While debates typically focus primarily on the candidates' positions and only secondarily on how they'd lead and make decisions, this Saddleback Civil Forum will reverse that ratio," he explained. "Since the oath of the President is a commitment to protect the Constitution, it's critical to know how each candidate interprets the nature of its principles. Leadership involves far more than promoting programs and making speeches, and since no one can predict what crises will happen over the next four years, it is vital to know the decision capacity and process of each man.”
An interfaith meeting will be held at Saddleback Church in conjunction with the candidates’ event. Warren will also deliver a “special sermon” on August 17 concerning the election.
According to a press release, the Saddleback Civil Forum was established “to promote civil discourse and the common good of all.” Warren said that the civil forums, “in addition to my primary calling to proclaim the Gospel Truth of salvation in Jesus Christ,” further the life goals of improving individual responsibility, improving the credibility of the Church, and encouraging society to “return to civility.”
The first Saddleback Civil Forum, held during Passover Week of 2008, featured five Jewish Holocaust survivors. A September forum event will feature former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.