CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — When pastors gather Thursday and Friday in Cedar Rapids it will be like a big church service, Pastor Brad Sherman said.
“There will be singing and preaching and teaching,” said Sherman, the pastor of Solid Rock Church in Coralville.
There also will be politics.
The pastors will hear not only from theologians, church leaders and fellow pastors, but from potential presidential candidates former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who has spent three days in Iowa this week, will not attend. However, Paul said his absence from Pastors and Pews and The Family Leadership Summit on Saturday in Ames should not be seen as a parting of ways with conservative Christians, a formidable voting bloc within the Iowa GOP.
Instead, said Paul, who has participated in Pastors and Pews events in Iowa and South Carolina, it’s based on his schedule.
“I’m not avoiding it at all,” he said. “In fact, I was complaining that we couldn’t get it coordinated with the group.”
During the Senate’s August recess, he explained, he plans to spend time in Kentucky, spend a week performing surgery in Guatemala and take his son to college.
“There’s a lot of stuff, moving parts, to my life going on,” he said. “We’ll be back for things like that.”
Jindal and Huckabee will be participating in The Family Leader Summit, which also will feature Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — all potential candidates for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
Pastors and Pews is not a campaign event, Sherman said. Huckabee and Jindal will be there as witnesses to Christian faith. Huckabee is a former Baptist pastor and Jindal, a Catholic, speaks frequently about his faith and the role of faith in public life.
“They may be thinking about it, but they’re not here as presidential candidates,” Sherman said, adding, “If they run, it’s to their advantage.”
The goal of Pastors and Pews, according to Sherman, is to talk to pastors “about the importance of Christians being involved in the political process — what they can and should do.’
That includes encouraging their congregations to register to vote and to be involved in the political process, he said.
“Christians are citizens, too,” he said. “I have encouraged my congregation in the past to get involved and I think in a lot of places it has made a difference.”
The American Renewal Project, which is on left-leaning watch lists because of its opposition to same-sex marriage and other priorities of liberal political groups, is sponsoring Thursday and Friday’s event at the DoubleTree by Hilton. The organization did not respond to requests for more information or comment about the program.
A similar gathering in Des Moines last year attracted more than 500 pastors. Those attending typically come from Christian conservative churches, said Sherman, who described himself as a participant, not a leader of the event.
“It’s pretty much by invitation,” he said. “Typically (the pastors) are evangelicals. There will be some Catholics. It’s not closed.”