Darin Pesnell, even before he planted Iron Works Church in March, knew he wanted to head a place of worship that bucked convention.

“[We were] trying to figure out what kind of church we want to be. How do we engage folks not in our church?” the pastor, a young-looking 33, explained last week from a stool in Steel City coffee house.

So rather than squelch dissent, as Pesnell said some religious institutions have earned a reputation for doing, Iron Works—a Presbyterian Church in America mission that meets at Franklin Commons—has taken a different tack: it decided to give the microphone to the skeptics.

“I thought, wouldn’t it be great to have a debate that goes beyond sound bites?” he said, citing the improvable presidential debates we were subjected to this fall. “Wouldn’t it be great to go deeper than that, flesh out the actual disagreements.”

Pesnell paused.

“I thought…maybe an interesting way to do that would be to have two dead guys do the actual debate.”

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