Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama will make their first joint appearance as the presumptive Republican and Democratic presidential nominee, respectively, at Saddleback Church on Aug. 16 for a leadership and compassion forum.
In the two-hour event, each candidate will take the stage separately for about an hour to respond to Pastor Rick Warren's questions about faith and moral issues such as poverty, HIV/AIDS, climate change and human rights.
"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," said Warren, who founded the 22,000-member Lake Forest, Calif., megachurch.
"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."
Both presidential candidates have recently increased their outreach to the evangelical community, and an appearance at the popular evangelical church could help the candidates' appeal to this key voting bloc.
Warren will be the only one to pose questions to the candidates, as requested by both senators, although the event will be open to the media.
"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," Warren said. "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."
This forum will be the only joint campaign event prior to each party's national convention.
Pastor Rick Warren, who wrote best-seller The Purpose Driven Life, said he has known both candidates before they ran for national office and had called each man personally to invite him to the event.
McCain and Obama, along with other political leaders, have endorsed Warren's P.E.A.C.E. Plan – a 50-year strategy to mobilize millions of local churches around the world to address the five global problems: spiritual emptiness, corrupt leadership, poverty, disease and illiteracy.
Moreover, Obama had spoken at Saddleback Church's annual HIV/AIDS conference in 2006, and sent a video message last year about his commitment towards polices that would tackle the disease. Similarly, McCain also sent a recorded video message to the audience at the Global Summit on AIDS and The Church in November.
In conjunction with the Civil Forum event, Warren will convene an interfaith meeting with about 30 Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders to discuss joint projects that can benefit all Americans.
Following the civil forum, Warren will deliver on Aug. 17 a special sermon entitled "Making Up Your Mind: Questions to Consider before the Election."
Faith in Public Life, which hosted a Compassion Forum earlier this year, featuring Obama and former Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton, will co-sponsor the Saddleback Civil Forum event. There are about 6,500 tickets for the event.
The Saddleback Civil Forum was established to promote civil discourse and the common good of all. The first forum, held during Passover week this year, featured five Jewish World War II Holocaust survivors sharing their stories. The next Saddleback Civil Forum in September will feature former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.