[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/21/art.split.gi.jpg caption="McCain and Obama will share the same stage."](CNN) - John McCain and Barack Obama will share a stage next month, shortly before officially claiming their parties’ presidential nominations.
Both men will appear at a forum at Pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church August 16 – and briefly appear on stage together before being interviewed separately by the “Purpose-Driven Life” author.
“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,” said Warren in a statement released Monday.
He added that he viewed both men as friends, but “they also know I will be raising questions… beyond what political reporters typically ask,” including issues like climate change, human rights, poverty and HIV/AIDS.
The Saddlebrook forum will be co-sponsored by Faith in Public Life, which co-organized a similar event with CNN at Messiah College in advance of the Pennsylvania primary.
Barack Obama’s campaign has made an ambitious effort – unprecedented from a Democratic White House hopeful - to reach religious voters this campaign cycle. "Senator Obama has consistently been one of our nation's leaders in addressing the role of faith in his own life and the lives of the American people,” said Josh Dubois, National Director of Religious Affairs for the Obama campaign. “He's looking forward to going back to Saddleback with his good friend Pastor Rick Warren - where he already spoke in 2006 - to talk about the role of values in solving some of our nation's most pressing challenges, and what all Americans can do to bridge religious divides and move our country forward.”
John McCain – whose campaign has worked hard to hold on to conservative Christians who typically vote Republican – got a major boost Sunday with the news that long-time critic James Dobson of Focus on the Family was weighing an endorsement of the presumptive Republican nominee.
“John McCain has a strong record of working on the issues that are important with pro-family voters,” said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds of the Arizona senator’s decision to participate in the August forum. “Our campaign is working diligently to build even greater support for Senator McCain’s message of reform, prosperity and peace – so we are encouraged by signals of additional supporters and new venues for our conversation with voters.”