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. Robert Cole

    Prayers to you and your family.

    April 6, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
  2. ken baldwin

    How tragic for the Warren family and all families that are victims of suicide.
    How I hate to read the toxic remarks...we will all one day be standing accountable to our
    beliefs...one by one. Mental illness makes little discrimination as to whom it will strike...
    just like any other heartbreaking disease. Shame on those heartless souls & trolls...you are who
    you are when nobody's watching...even if anonymous. You know who you are.

    April 6, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
  3. Correctlycenter

    May the Lord give the Warren family and friends the strength to carry on in this tragedy. Bless them and let them know You are with them Lord...

    April 6, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
  4. Spakole

    It has to be devastating to lose a child, and even more heartbreaking for them to take their own lives – I couldn't imagine the pain.

    But, does Warren show up to his church tomorrow? I guess we shall see – I know everyone grieves in different ways.

    The other glaring question is this – if he had mental illness his whole life, how did he get a gun?

    April 6, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
    • cigarlover

      Gun and God goes hand in hand in this country. The more religious (mentally ill) your are the higher the chances you would have loads of guns around. Pathetic but true.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
  5. Jill

    My deepest sympathies go out to the entire Warren family. This is a painful and life altering tragedy for any family, but even more so for one in the public eye. May you successful edit out all of the inappropriate comments and fully receive the many more loving, faith promoting and kind ones.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
  6. Frank Terrent

    Another person with mental illness and a gun. Sorry for the family loosing a kid is the hardest thing in life. We have to control the access of people with mental illnesses to guns. Registration and license for all guns

    April 6, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
    • Kiel

      How do you know the gun wasn't licensed and registered? Chances are it was Ricks. Good job.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
    • CurmudgeonTx

      You have to remember. A court has to judge you as being mentally incompetent in order to be denied the right to purchase a firearm. The kid was 27. That is plenty old enough, and lacking any felonies, and being a US citizen, there was nothing keeping him from purchasing a firearm to commit suicide with.

      You cannot demand that every person that ever suffered from depression cannot own a firearm (2nd amendment right). Otherwise, how easy would it be to systematically block other rights?

      April 6, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
  7. marcus

    funny, having been raised catholic, i am NEVER jealous of religious people... they don't believe there is order in the chaos.. they pick snippets from their book and decide to discriminate against entire races of people.. they are generally laughably self-righteous, and embrace concepts that are continuously proven unsubstantiated by real life.. when a gay man dies, they say the lord punished him.. when a fellow christian dies, they say the lord called him home.. in the end, all their preaching can't save their own families.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
    • Austin

      God will allow this kid to die in oppression, as a trade off with Satan to watch the glory God receives through pastor Warrens faith, and the people who are reached and touched in this process.

      May the name of God, be glorified in this trial.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • cigarlover

      Well said marcus.
      And Austin, bugger off with your preaching... go find a church or something.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
    • irp

      Most, if not all, of our ancestors were raised somehow by some religion, I've seen many very self-righteous people they come in all shape and sizes in all walks of life. If I can put it in a simple statement, let's all hate the self-righteous all alike, and like the meek and humble

      April 6, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • CurmudgeonTx

      Sounds to me like you are laughingly self-righteously feeling superior to every Christian. Kettle, Pot...Pot, Kettle.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
  8. Namesake

    I just could not imagine this hapining to our son. I would ask the why question. I believe in God and I am a Christian, but it would be gut wrenching to find this out.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
    • Holly

      Christianity is the biggest scam even beating Quickstar. The followers of Quickstar keep counting fake money just as Christians keep talking to fake Jesus.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • cigarlover

      LOL Holly, so correct.

      As I said before it's a cult. Organized cult. So everyone feels good to be part of a cult.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
  9. Ron M.

    Insane they say?
    If so .....
    Thank God he did not take a bunch of kids with him!

    April 6, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • Alex

      Or adults.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
    • cigarlover

      Absolutely correct. As sad as it is, its good that the kid didnt take others life.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
  10. Joanne Hill

    How my prayers go out to your family in this most difficult time. He is with the Lord now and at peace. I will surely keep you in my prayers. with Christian Love, Joanne Hill

    April 6, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
  11. Austin

    i think that when we get to heaven we will learn that Satan attacks people beyond recognition with oppression.

    I find the part about "mental illness from birth" interesting, and I question things like how my pastors daughter died from cancer. I think God allows Satan, as in Job's case, permission to defeat peoples lives with oppression and aggression.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
    • Daws

      It may seem comforting to try to find reason and blame for things like this, but the cold truth is sometimes things just happen. Life can be random and unfair and no one gets a special shield protecting themselves from the simple chaos of the world. In efforts to make the world seem fair we can do it even more injustice, saying one deserved it somehow, or it's for the greater good, or notions that there's evil demons terrorizing the world which frankly sounds insane. Best is to except it for what it is and move on.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
    • Austin

      What? I am simply stating that for a Godly man, there are trade offs with God. As in the case of Job, God ALLOWED Job's FAMILY to die, because Job's faith glorified God.

      To live is Christ, and to die is gain.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
    • Terry

      It is hard to speak on spiritual matters to those in the dark. Your words are madness to them. I do know what you are saying and you are right. These demons are real and they are at work every single day and night, non stop. Pray for the Warren family that the Lord keep their faith strong. They will see Matt again. There is life after this life.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
    • Juanito

      @j Jack:

      We ALL die, Jack. The only unanswered questions are 'how' and 'when'. The end is still nonetheless written for all of us.

      No one is immune to tragedy. The Scripture says that believers will, not may or might, but WILL experience tribulation.

      So yes, the faithful to Him will experience a lot of things we don't want, but we know by accepting His sacrifice, we know He waits to receive us in the end.

      I pray for this family, and every family who experienced this type of tradegy.

      In His love, Juanito.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
    • neil

      and jack things he is smart. he knows, er, jack!

      April 6, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
  12. Seth Hill

    I've always secretly been jealous of religious people, because they believe there is an order behind all the confusion, they have a clear moral code, and there will be reward after suffering. I feel sorry for them when all their good living and all their prayers just aren't enough. It must be even harder for them than for atheists like me.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
    • Peter

      Suffering when united with the cross is redemptive.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
    • Bev

      Believers already know that their works and prayers aren't enough. That's why we are so thankful for God's grace toward us; unmerited grace which God freely gives to all. All one has to do it accept it. There are many tragedies in life which we will never understand, and have no answers for. God bless the Warren family, and God bless you also, Seth.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
    • Stacy

      Very insightful. Paul wrote that if there is no resurrection, then we are to be pitied more than any man. But we believe in the resurrection in spite of what we may percieve as "unanswered prayer". Don't pity us. We have hope.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
    • John

      This story is not about religion or beliefs. As a father of a son who committed suicide due to mental illness 4 weeks ago, this is a story about a father and mother losing a beloved son to an unrelenting disease. My son also had the best that medicine and psychiatry have to offer, and a loving home. Even that was not enough for my son, Rick.

      My pain is still acute; I still don't know how to answer the question to strangers,
      "How many kids do you have." Today I believe I have four children, with one that was taken from me prematurely. Tomorrow my answer will be different. At least I didn't have to face the anonymous slings and arrows shot at me from the postings on the Internet that hint my belief in God or family life had something to do with my son's suicide. Please leave the Warren family with positive messages- suicide affects agnostics, atheists and believers equally.

      To the Wrren family, I grieve with you, knowing the doubts and pain you feel will dull over time but will never go away. Please offer the Warren family condolences and not criticism in their time of need.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • Sherry

      I feel sorry for u in the end..too late then..who's got more to loose.???

      April 6, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
  13. One L

    Very sorry for your loss, Mr. Warren.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
  14. STA STA

    Love the Christian.

    Hate the Christianity.


    April 6, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
    • Austin

      Why are you here quoting bible verses ? how does that suit you? it seems demented in my opinion.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
  15. Chris

    Maybe he was simply normal in a family of mentally ill humans. Maybe he was intelligent in a society of madness around him. RIP.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
    • zach hamilton

      are you a mental health professional and where did you come to a conculusion that the whole family is mentally ill

      April 6, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
    • Kiel

      Can't say I wouldn't have done the same thing if I had to live in that household.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
  16. STA STA

    Atheists have done more good than any other group.

    The atheist Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has done more good than any other group.

    Churches just don't give that much, or do any good. Gates ended Polio...malaria may be next.

    Atheists work. Prayer doesn't.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
    • Heathen

      Boom! Well said man.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
    • Peter

      Melinda Gates is Catholic.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • Peter

      The Catholic Church is the largest Charity in the world and has been for 2000 years. This is a fact.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
    • Bobby

      @Sta Sta, you neglect all the hospitals, colleges and universities, orphanages, hunger programs, AIDS programs, and much, much more that Christians have started and continue to run all around the world. There are hundreds of millions that would disagree with you. I am glad that there are non-religious organizations that perform acts of social justice and aid, but your clearly biased and non-informed statement is just false. Please do just a little research before making such a wide statement.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
  17. Jen - a person whose life you impacted...

    Rick, you changed our lives through your leadership- our entire community followed purpose driven life. I remember your first sentence so much.. Our family grieves with yours- thousands of mikes away. He is home.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
    • Dragon Slayer Lights Your Fire

      I'll pray for you.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
  18. Stacy

    My how vicious we can be from behind the cyber curtain–no one to answer to, no one fear. But that is where atheism leads those who lack an ultimate sense of right or wrong. They are justified within themselves. And they just can't stand anyone who doesn't see the world as they do. "Well, how about those Christians who try to shove religion down our throat?!", you proclaim. You are no different. You have your religion and these Jesus bashing sessions are your church.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
    • JayJ7

      We apologize for trying to "shove" reality, logic, and intelligence, down the minds of people who insist the universe is run by invisible figments of their imagination, and then manage to believe that their delusions have a right to be unquestioned.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
    • LL

      Oh come down off your high horse.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
    • Stacy

      I put my horse in the stable. Now, give me your best intelligent explanation for the created–or non-created– universe. I'm sure you will quote Hawking or some other physicist who can reduce it all to some tiny little superparticle that was incredibly dense hot and it all just blew up and came together–after a lot of time, of course– and formed a being that actually wonders where it came from. But you just can't get rid of the particle no matter how long ago it was or small it is. Your intelligence leaves no room for intelligence in the formation of the universe. Now, that's a high horse to ride.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
  19. Dan

    Rick Warren family Should not have you people insult his son. Mental Illness is real if you don't have a nice think to say then don't leave a comment.My family will pray for yours Rick.


    April 6, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
  20. MTD

    My sympathies/condolences to the Warren family as I would to any family at a time like this. However, this "Christianity-Lite" that Rick Warren and others peddle sets the faith up to ridicule by those outside the faith and misleads those within the faith. God/Christ didn't promise us a rose garden and the basic tenets of the faith are pretty clear and simple. P.S. Those outside the faith, let it go. If you don't believe that's fine. Show the same respect for those who do as would expect for those who don't.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
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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.