December 10th, 2013
11:03 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) – The son of a Florida megachurch pastor who is close to President Barack Obama has died, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to local police.
Isaac Hunter, 36, died Tuesday, according to Northland and Summit churches, two Orlando-area congregations with deep ties to his family.
Altamonte Springs Police Department spokesman Robert C. Pelton said officers responded to a call to check on the well-being of Hunter at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday. They found him dead, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Pelton said. The investigation is ongoing, and no foul play is suspected, he added.
Hunter is the son of Joel Hunter, an evangelical who has been a spiritual adviser to Obama since his 2008 presidential campaign. The president and the pastor speak nearly once a week, and Joel Hunter was an adviser to the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Isaac Hunter and his wife, Rhonda, were going through a divorce, according to Florida court records. Hunter resigned as senior pastor of Summit Church in 2012 after acknowledging a three-year affair with a member of the church staff.
"All of us are grieving for the Hunter family, and we will deeply miss Isaac. Words cannot express the sorrow we're feeling," said a statement by Vernon Rainwater, a pastor at Northland, which is based in Longwood, Florida.
"We love this family and are so grateful for the impact they have had on each of our lives. I have loved Isaac since he was a child, and I know this ... Isaac loved Jesus. And we are assured of his continuing relationship with Christ now in heaven."
With several campuses in central Florida, Northland is one of the largest evangelical churches in the state. Like his father, Isaac Hunter had been an evangelical megachurch pastor, a leader of Summit Church in Orlando.
"By now you may have heard that our former Senior Pastor, Isaac Hunter, died today," Pastor Jeff Kern wrote on Summit's website. "As I write these words, it is hard to express the deep sorrow we as a staff team are feeling for this tragic loss.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Rhonda, their three children and their extended family. We love them and it is our desire to support them in any way we can during this difficult time," Kern continued.
"As we look back on Isaac’s ministry here at Summit, we are profoundly grateful for the impact he had in all of our lives. We know that Isaac is deeply loved by Jesus, even in a time of brokenness ...," he wrote.
Cameron Strang, the founder of an Orlando-based evangelical magazine, described Isaac Hunter as a friend and former pastor who had "some significant struggles."
"Isaac was my pastor for several years. He was an amazing teacher," Strang, founder of Relevant magazine, wrote on Facebook on Tuesday evening.
"Around this time last year, Isaac resigned his position at our church amid some very public scandals. He had a wife of 13 years and (three) young kids, and the time since then has been incredibly difficult for our church. His family lives around the corner from me, and I see them often," Strang continued.
"Isaac loved Jesus and was a talented and dedicated pastor for more than a decade. But he had some significant struggles. The unfathomable news today is devastating for many. Please pray for his family. Please pray for our church. Pray for his kids," Strang said.
Friends of the Hunter family also expressed condolences on Twitter on Tuesday night.
Joshua DuBois, former director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, wrote:
Kay Warren, the wife of megachurch pastor Rick Warren, who lost their son Matthew to suicide in April, wrote:
CNN's Eric Marrapodi and John Couwels contributed to this report.
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.