Presidential hopefuls Senators Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) chose an unprecedented venue and format for their first joint appearance in the campaign. For the first time in American history, the presumptive nominees had a formal, televised conversation with one of the nation's leading pastors -- Dr. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church -- at the Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency. This non-debate format event was broadcast live on several television and radio networks and live-streamed on many Internet sites.
The two-hour event, attended by nearly 5,000 church members in the main auditorium and remote overflow venues, began with Warren posing questions first to Sen. Obama, as determined by a coin toss, after which the two candidates met on stage and embraced in one of their last appearances prior to their respective conventions. The second half of the program featured the same questions directed to Sen. McCain by Warren, who stressed that the candidate had been placed "under a cone of silence" prior to his turn on stage.
Warren organized his thoughtful, yet hard-hitting line of inquiry into four categories, including Stewardship, Leadership, Worldview and America's Role in the World. The questions covered a wide range of topics, ranging from the candidates' values, vision and virtues as applied to many of the critical issues of interest to the faith community and general public, including a discussion on abortion, traditional marriage, stem cell research, education, religious persecution, world orphans, the theory of evil in the world, and their vision for the future of America - at home and abroad.