Melissa Rogers, professor of religion and public policy at Wake Forest University Divinity School, is keeping a close eye on the Saddleback Civil Forum on Leadership and Compassion. The forum, to be hosted by Dr. Rick Warren (founding pastor of the 22,000-member Orange County, Calif. megachurch), will feature Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain making their first joint appearance since the primaries on Saturday, August 16, 2008.
Beyond keeping tabs on the approaching events, Rogers, who is also the founder and director of Wake Forest’s Center for Religion and Public Affairs, notes that Dr. Warren has taken a different tact than some other religious-right leaders:
One of the things that did not draw much notice in the announcement of the Warren-McCain-Obama confab is the fact that the presidential interviews will be conducted under the auspices of the Saddleback Civil Forum (in partnership with the multi-faith group, Faith in Public Life), not under the auspices of Warren’s church.
Warren distinguishes between his job as a Christian minister and his administration of the Saddleback Civil Forum. Warren says his “primary calling” is as a Christian minister who “proclaim[s] the Gospel Truth of salvation in Jesus Christ,” but he notes that the Saddleback Civil Forum “was established to promote civil discourse and the common good of all.”
In a time when the religious right is attempting to politicize pulpits and congregations, it is refreshing to see a popular evangelical leader not only following the law but making a symbolic — and, hopefully, highly resonant — point by willingly doing so.