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April 6th, 2013
05:20 PM ET

Son of Pastor Rick Warren commits suicide, family says

By the CNN Wire staff

(CNN) –After a lifelong battle with mental illness, the youngest son of Pastor Rick Warren has committed suicide, his family said.

Matthew Warren, 27, died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound on Friday, said Deputy Daniel Aikin, with the Orange County Coroner's Office.

The family shared news of his death in an e-mail to church staff.

Rick Warren and his wife founded Saddleback Valley Community Church, a megachurch in Southern California.

"No words can express the anguished grief we feel right now," the pastor wrote in the note, a copy of which was sent to CNN.

"You who watched Matthew grow up knew he was an incredibly kind, gentle, and compassionate man. He had a brilliant intellect and a gift for sensing who was most in pain or most uncomfortable in a room. He'd then make a bee-line to that person to engage and encourage them.

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"But only those closest knew that he struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression, and even suicidal thoughts. In spite of America's best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided."

According to Aikin, Matthew Warren's body was found at his home in Mission Viejo, California, late Friday afternoon. He put the estimated time of death at around 10 a.m. that day.

The coroner's office is investigating the death. An autopsy will be conducted early next week, Aikin told CNN on Saturday.

According to a spokesman for Rick Warren, Matthew Warren worked in the Saddleback Resources Warehouse, which distributes books and DVDs.

As a pioneer of the megachurch movement, Rick Warren looked to translate traditional evangelical messages to a wider audience.

The pastor gave the invocation at President Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration and penned "The Purpose-Driven Life," a Christian self-help guide that became a mainstream best-seller.

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"I'll never forget how, many years ago, after another approach had failed to give relief, Matthew said 'Dad, I know I'm going to heaven. Why can't I just die and end this pain?' but he kept going for another decade," Rick Warren wrote in the e-mail.

In a separate statement, his church asked for prayers and that "God's comfort and peace" be with the Warren family.

A spokesman for Warren provided a copy of a letter Warren sent to members of his staff:

Subject: Needing your prayers

To my dear staff,

Over the past 33 years we’ve been together through every kind of crisis. Kay and I’ve been privileged to hold your hands as you faced a crisis or loss, stand with you at gravesides, and prayed for you when ill. Today, we need your prayer for us.

No words can express the anguished grief we feel right now. Our youngest son, Matthew, age 27, and a lifelong member of Saddleback, died today.

You who watched Matthew grow up knew he was an incredibly kind, gentle, and compassionate man. He had a brilliant intellect and a gift for sensing who was most in pain or most uncomfortable in a room. He’d then make a bee-line to that person to engage and encourage them.

But only those closest knew that he struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression, and even suicidal thoughts. In spite of America’s best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided. Today, after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he took his life.

Kay and I often marveled at his courage to keep moving in spite of relentless pain. I’ll never forget how, many years ago, after another approach had failed to give relief, Matthew said “ Dad, I know I’m going to heaven. Why can’t I just die and end this pain?” but he kept going for another decade.

Thank you for your love and prayers. We love you back.

Pastor Rick


CNN's Eric Marrapodi and Janet DiGiacomo contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity

soundoff (1,012 Responses)
  1. Peter

    Would you care to back that statement up with facts or numbers?

    April 6, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
  2. kent

    i am an atheist, and proud of it. i believe my approach to people and life are correct, and i am extremely happy. but i feel for not only these people, but anyone who would lose a son to suicide. can't imagine the pain i would feel, let alone have someone give up the only thing we are guaranteed once in the game.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
    • snowboarder

      very true. a tragedy to give up ones life for pains most likely imagined.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
  3. Ajax

    It's too bad about the boy. I've discovered over time that the trick to preventing the suicide of another is involvement. If they are in the throws of extreme suicidal ideation, you must not leave them alone, for any reason. Even if you have to tricky or forceful. The only way that has ever worked to stop a person from jumping off a bridge or a chair is to be where they are. Once the episode has passed then you can work on self sufficiency. It is hard and time consuming but if you love the person or even if you don't, you must do what you have to..........if you're not there for them, well then you're just not there and something like this can occur.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
  4. snowboarder

    sad. no amount of prayer can repair a defective brain.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
    • Tim Brown

      Niether does talking to a brick wall.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
    • snowboarder

      @tim, relevance? mental illness is a tragedy for those afflicted.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
    • Johnson

      The point being that prayer is the equivalent of talking to a brick wall.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
    • snowboarder

      @johnson, that i can agree with.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
  5. Mike E

    The hateful comments posted on here by the irreligious and anti-religious must surely give us all pause. I am not a fan of Rick Warren, but I'd much prefer his all-are-welcome approach (remember that he has been criticized for praying with Obama, for his willingness to build bridges with Muslims, for his church's support of AIDS patients, etc.) than the hate that is represented by those who would rather kick someone in their darkest moment. Perhaps there is something to what Mr. Warren has to say...hmmm...

    April 6, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
    • oldleftcoastdude

      I'm an athiest, but I most certainly do not wish any ill will to Warren and his family at a time like this. My condolences to the entire Warren family.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
    • Unplugged

      Being religious or not has very little to do with the kind of hate exhibited here. The comments from these people have more to do with their own lack of self-confidence and their obvious need to feel power over those less fortunate.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
  6. Name*justice

    It's comical the support for this person that lives under the very umbrella of freedom that he and his kind picket.....but now the supporters of his kind disputing that very freedom... This from a group that pickets funerals of dead heroes that provide them this umbella

    April 6, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • Nicole Falgout

      Not all "christians" picket soldiers funerals. I know I don't. I have a cousin in the military who I pray for all the time. Not because I think what she does is wrong but because I want her to be safe. I want all our troops to be safe.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
  7. Nicole Falgout

    I am so sorry for your loss. No parent should have to bury a child EVER.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
  8. Paul R

    To those that consider themselves Christians, but believe you go to hell if you commit suicide: Let me ask a question – if you become ill of cancer, and die from it, does that mean that you are going to hell? How is mental illness any different? You can die from a variety of things, but that is not what determines your eternal resting place. I have lost a brother to suicide, so this is not an idle question. I have thought about this, and as a Christian, I have realized that mental illness isn't different from other illnesses. Life is too short. My prayers and heart go out to the Warren family.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
    • Nicole Falgout

      My pastor preaches that mental illness is just that and illness and since you don't go to hell simply because you get sick and die why would you go to Hell because you are mentally ill?

      April 6, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
    • Nicole Falgout

      Just for clarification I'm agreeing with you. Sorry for your loss.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
    • Stan DaMan

      Well that's a nice "get out of hell free" card Nicole. Give me a break.

      If that's the case then gays should be able to marry because Christians think that's a disease.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
    • Aaron Joseph Wiseman

      Your comment makes no sense. about the cancer and mental illness. i sure the man could feed himself. its his choice man REply

      April 6, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
    • randy

      There is no scripture whatsoever that says you go to hell if you commit suicide. He is in heaven if he accepted Jesus Christ as his savior.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
    • Nicole Falgout

      Stan DaMan I do believe that gay's should be able to marry. I happen to have gay friends. It is not for me to judge people. I don't know why some people are born gay. I don't believe that ANYONE chooses to be gay. I have seen to many friends struggle with it. I have had family members struggle with it as well. And yes I do think gay's should be allowed to get married I can marry who I want and be loved why shouldn't you?

      April 6, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
    • Sshollie

      Paul, I am so sorry for your loss. That must have been devestating. God knew your brother and all he suffered through. Have to faith you will see him again some day, healthy and whole.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
    • Maggi

      I do not believe suicides go to hell. I'm not sure why some Christians believe that. I suppose they see it as an unforgivable sin, but let's say I gossip or tell a lie and then get hit by a truck and die before I repent...am I going to Hell? I think not. If that were the case, we Christians would be walking around on egg shells, so afraid to make a mistake or screw up and then spending 24 hours a day repenting for everything we may or may not have done just to make sure we make it to Heaven. So much for God's grace. The Lord I follow doesn't work that way.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
  9. Frederick Douglas

    Unfortunately, I am not surprised to see such disgusting vitriol on a CNN Web Page. This news organization caters mostly to the lowest common denominator of fool. Progressives are wolves in sheep's clothing. Plain and simple.

    I pray for Rick Warren and his family, and I hope his son has now found some peace.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
  10. Sshollie

    The Bible does not say suicide is murder or that a person will not receive everlasting life if they commit suicide. It does say God knows our hearts. Suicide is not a choice. Depression is a disease.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
  11. Paul

    Guys, as a firery liberal, I've never been a fan of Warren's politics. But, the man's son just died. No parent should experience that. Leave politics out of this.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
  12. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    I am not a fan of Rick Warren, but in this, his time of grief, I offer my prayers and condolences. Mental illness is a terrible thing for any parent to face. Let us all join with him in this time of need and offer our prayers for his support.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
  13. Glynda S.

    To All 0f you who want to criticize the Warren's parenting & religion, non-religious people commit suicide also. Mental illness is Real!!! My parents were both pastors & I never felt under the pressure you are speaking of. My heart goes out to the Warren family today! May God sustain them & give them His comfort, peace & love during this tragic time in their lives as only HE can do!!!

    April 6, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
    • Patrick

      You're probably straight.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
    • Guilty

      Death by religious idiocy. That is criminal.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
  14. Name*atasz

    Mat God bring comfort to you and your family. I too have suffered through the pain of losing loved ones, and it wasn't easy. Bit Gods grace have me peace and comfort, I pray he will do the same for you and all your family. My sincere condolences.. God Bles

    April 6, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
  15. Sunshine1167

    The comments here are disgusting, I wish CNN would start disabling the comment feature on stories involving the deaths of public figures or their relatives. I do not care for Rick Warren but would never make such statements. How do you want people to speak of your loved ones when they die?

    April 6, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
    • KT

      I agree 100%.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
    • JB

      Yep, I agree. It's already happening in many other online new sites. And, the insensitive and disrespectful have no one to blame but themselves. They say they are exercising the right to free speech. I say they're exercising the right to be a moron. If you don't have anything good to say then maybe don't say it. Somebody died here. But, these days people laugh at those who die, as if they won't die themselves tomorrow. What a messed up world we live in.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
  16. Arden

    As a parent, I can grieve with Rick Warren and his wife for the loss of their son; regardless of the reason. May God grant you peace and loving support.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
  17. Jim Krugh

    I am truly sorry for you loss.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
  18. Adrianne Nicole Rose

    Does being atheist mean being callous, cold, crass, cruel? I didn't think so, but wondering now.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • Zachary

      I apologize on behalf of other atheists here. This is not indicative of our community. I think you are mostly hearing venom from the gay nazi wing.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • JB

      Zachary there is no need to apologize. One doesn't have to be an atheist to be a complete jerk or moron. There are many Christians on here who are saying just as many insensitive and hurtful things as the atheist beside them.

      This isn't a religious or atheist problem. This is a problem where humanity has no respect for itself anymore. Every man for himself and screw the guy beside you. Sad, isn't it?

      April 6, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
    • Zachary

      Thanks JB. I'm at a loss. I'm in the military and I've been thinking lots lately about who and what I'm risking so much for. I'm so disappointed in the meanspirited and extreme political nature of my country. Outside of money I fear our common bonds are lost...

      April 6, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
    • Common sense

      What does being gay have to do with the cruel comments? You're making a generalized accusation based on nothing.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
  19. Missy

    Rest in peace. My condolences to the Warren Family.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
  20. Judy

    Saddened by the news of this loss. May the God of peace rest on this grieving family and bring them hope.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.