Written by Michelle May
The three top Democratic presidential candidates will discuss faith, values and poverty and take questions from religious leaders Monday, June 4, at a forum sponsored by Sojourners/Call to Renewal, the progressive social-justice group.
Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. and Barack Obama, D-Ill. as well as former North Carolina senator John Edwards will all take part in the forum, to take place at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Obama is a member of the UCC. Edwards and Clinton are United Methodists.
The Rev. Jim Wallis, best-selling author and evangelical activist who heads Sojourners/Call to Renewal, said having only three candidates participate allows for "a more thoughtful, more in-depth conversation."
"This gives us a good long time to really engage with them," Wallis said. The event will be televised by CNN and is part of Sojourner's 2007 Pentecost conference, which draws social justice activists from across the country to gather for workshops and to lobby Congress.
Sojourners said each candidate will appear separately for about 20 minutes and be asked questions by religious leaders, including Wallis, Sharon E. Watkins, the general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); the Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook, senior pastor of Believers Christian Fellowship and past advisor to former President Bill Clinton; Joel C. Hunter, a Florida megachurch pastor who briefly lead the Christian Coalition; and Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, executive director of the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York.
"This is the first conference where faith and values are the focus, the first one where poverty is a focus," Wallis said. The candidates will be asked about the role of faith in politics and what values politicians should uphold, according to the evangelical leader.
Sojourners has asked the top three Republican presidential candidates to participate in a similar forum in September, Wallis said.
Also in June, the Iowa Christian Alliance, a conservative advocacy group, will co-sponsor a presidential forum in Des Moines.
Alliance president Steve Scheffler said six candidates have confirmed they will attend the June 30 forum: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; Rep. Tom Trancredo, R-Colo., former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore and former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson.