Popular megachurch pastor Rick Warren said he does not believe pastors should endorse political candidates in a recent interview held weeks ahead of his highly-anticipated leadership and compassion forum, which will feature presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama.
"I don't think it's right for pastors to endorse [a political candidate] in the first place," Warren said on a recent CNN interview when asked if he thinks McCain was right to disavow controversial pastors John Hagee and Rod Parsley.
"I would never endorse a candidate. I would never campaign for a candidate," he added.
"I think as a pastor my role is to pastor all the flock regardless of their political persuasion, so I wouldn't have wanted endorsements anyways."
Warren has, however, invited political candidates to speak at his church on the topic of HIV/AIDS. Past politicians that have spoken at Saddleback Church during its annual HIV/AIDS conference include Sens. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Sam Brownback.
Next month, Obama and McCain will appear together for the first time during the '08 presidential race to answer questions from Warren about faith and moral issues such as poverty, HIV/AIDS, climate change and human rights.
"I believe in the separation of church and state, but I do not believe in the separation of faith and politics," Warren said, "because faith is simply a worldview and everybody's got a worldview."
A person who says he can separate his faith and worldview is either an "idiot" or "lying" because it's impossible, the influential Christian leader contends.
"We make our decisions based on our values, based on our worldview so I think it's entirely appropriate for America to say not only what is your faith – whether it is in Christ or someone else – but what is your worldview because that is going to influence how we live in the next four year," he said
And in terms of how evangelicals will vote, Warren echoed what many other Christians have said this year – evangelicals are not monolithic and are open to both Republican and Democratic candidates.
"I do think that a lot of people, not just evangelicals, have reserved judgments," the founding pastor of the 22,000-member Saddleback Church said. "I think a lot of America hasn't made up its mind yet between these two candidates and I'm hoping that this forum will allow these two guys (McCain and Obama) to speak for themselves without an interpreter or any spin on it."
McCain and Obama will each respond to Warren's questions at the Saddleback Church forum on Aug. 16.