LAKE FOREST – Rick Warren, Saddleback Church’s pastor, announced Wednesday that a civil forum planned with President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at the church has been canceled because of what Warren saw as uncivil discourse between the two campaigns.The forum, planned for this week, would have been two hours long, with each candidate speaking with Warren for 50 minutes. The event would have fallen during the same week when four years ago Warren hosted the first such presidential campaign forum, between then-Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain. Warren said it was the 2008 forum’s success among critics and pundits that led him to consider the idea again this year.
“The forum was praised for its unique format and fairness,” Warren said Wednesday while announcing a decision not to hold the forum. “Also, the TV networks were eager to cover it again since it garnered one of the largest viewing audiences of that election. I talked with both campaigns about the possibility of doing it again, and they were both favorable to participating.”
Warren pulled the plug on this year’s forum, explaining that the current negative campaign is opposite to what the church’s civil forum is about, even as plans had been ramping up to coordinate schedules, secure the area and get traffic control in check for a forum of this size. Planning had begun in March.
Requests for comment from both campaigns have not been returned as of early afternoon.
Warren has held seven civil forums with world leaders. Most recently, the megachurch pastor invited former Prime Minister Tony Blair to speak at Saddleback in March. In that forum, Warren and Blair talked about faith, 9/11 and the conflict in the Middle East. Warren also conducted a civil forum on Global Health in Washington, D.C., in December 2008 with President George W. Bush.