Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Meet Richard Duane Warren

We said from the beginning that this site was going to host a podcast and maybe eventually forums and who knows what else. We are very much "in development" here. This is early stages. You are seeing us without our makeup on. But we meant what we said about the podcast.

Our first podcast will be posted this weekend if things go smoothly, and the subject will be Pastor Rick Warren. Tune in to hear Doug, Nick, and myself banter about the man who is, for better or worse, the most prominent face of the church in our country right now.

We're saving the meaty stuff for the podcast, but I thought it would be useful to put up some basic biographical information about Rev. Warren, for us and our readers to refer to. If you haven't already been inundated with commentary and editorial on this guy, you've probably been living under a rock, but somehow in a sea of opinion this kind of basic information often gets missed.

Rick Warren is the senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. Most places I've found list this as somewhere between the 4th and 8th largest megachurch in the country, with weekly attendance around 20,000 people. He founded Saddleback in 1980, preaching on his first Sunday to a congregation of 200. Since then the church has used 80 different facilities as they've grown. His church is big. Really big.

Warren was born in 1954 in San Jose, California. His father was a Baptist minister, and his mother was a High School Librarian. He received his personal call into full-time ministry at the age of 19 when he and a friend skipped class to go hear W.A. Criswell preach. Shaking hands after the service, Criswell laid hands on Warren and announced that he would start a church of his own. Warren went to Seminary at Southwestern Baptist where he graduated in 1979, just before starting Saddleback.

Warren is most famous for writing the "Purpose Driven" series of books, particularly Purpose Driven Life. The first book in the series was about his church growth strategies. Purpose Driven Life is a devotional for the individual believer focusing on the same themes of achieving goals by trusting in God. These books have spawned a series of conferences and countless small groups in churches around the world who aim to restructure their lives, and their ministry using Warren's method.

Warren is usually regarded as a moderate evangelical because his ministry has included emphasis on education, HIV/AIDS relief, poverty, and other issues typically emphasized by progressives. However, he holds strongly conservative views on social issues like abortion, gay marriage, euthanasia, and capital punishment. He is theologically conservative on most issues, though some evangelicals have questioned his positions on salvation for non-christians, which he has normally claimed to be agnostic about.

Warren has recently gained a lot of attention and controversy for his political involvement. He played a role in the 2008 Presidential election when he hosted John McCain and Barack Obama at his church for a question and answer session in a stated attempt to restore civility to civil discourse. However, many felt that he was manipulative in his questions in order to boost John McCain's image. He also was a public supporter of Prop 8 in California to ban homosexual marriage, comparing homosexuality to pedophilia and incest in his sermons. These actions made him a controversial choice by President Elect Obama to give the inaugural prayer on January 20th.

Many are saying that Warren is the new Billy Graham - the nation's pastor. Regardless of whether you like him or not he is shaping many people's perception of Christianity in America.

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