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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. Austin

    Acts 13:38 "Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses. 40 "Therefore take heed, so that the thing spoken of in the Prophets may not come upon you: 41 `BEHOLD, YOU SCOFFERS, AND MARVEL, AND PERISH; FOR I AM ACCOMPLISHING A WORK IN YOUR DAYS, A WORK WHICH YOU WILL NEVER BELIEVE, THOUGH SOMEONE SHOULD DESCRIBE IT TO YOU.' "

    1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

    1 Corinthians 1:21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness,

    1 Corinthians 1:27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,

    What should we do then?

    Acts 16:30 and after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" 31 They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."

    Mark 1:15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

    John 6:28 Therefore they said to Him, "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?" 29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."

    April 6, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      And there shall in that time be rumours of things going astray, and there will be a great confusion as to where things really are, and nobody will really know where lieth those little things with the sort of raffia work base, that has an attachment…at this time, a friend shall lose his friends’s hammer and the young shall not know where lieth the things possessed by their fathers that their fathers put there only just the night before around eight o’clock...

      April 6, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • OOO

      This poor man committed suicide, he was in so much pain. What is this dribble you are spewing here.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
  2. Osama

    stop hating on Religion and Gays! Leave everyone to their own will, to each their own!

    April 6, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
  3. Emoje

    The posts here are obviously from intellectually deficient segment of society. Sitting home thinking depraved thoughts. Posting only for a shocking effect.

    April 6, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
  4. Burt

    Bad things can certainly happen to any of us, at any time. As in all suffering, we look to God, "The God of all comfort". "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." II Corinthains 1:3-4 May we always look to the God of all comfort when we face times of suffering. God bless

    April 6, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
  5. wsay

    Why did he commit suicide? Rick Warren's Son was gay. His father forced him to go to conversion therapy. This is religion.

    April 6, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
    • zach hamilton

      where are you facts how do you know he was gay i demand you show us your evidence do you know the family personally.?? what give you or anyone of us to say that he was gay when we dont know the real reason why killed himself

      April 6, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
  6. lewtwo

    US Diplomat killed in Afghanistan.
    Five killed in Christian-Muslim clashes in Egypt.
    North Korea declares war.
    Iran nuclear talks fail.
    Stock market down do to jobless rates.
    Kansas set to enact the countries most regressive abortion law.

    and this is what CNN considers to be a HEADLINE news story ?

    April 6, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
  7. NewsJet Magazine

    God Bless

    Our thoughts are with you and your immediate family I lost a my brother with similar issues and remember he will be missed daily but be with us always.

    newsjet1

    April 6, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
  8. Stayxsie Johnson

    So he couldn't pray away the gay? This is just a bunch of typical hypocritical christians.

    April 6, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
  9. frombirth??

    " But only those closest knew that he struggled from birth with mental illness "
    who knew depression could be congenital

    April 6, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
    • wsay

      To the religious, being gay is a mental illness.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
    • nobody

      Obviously if depression has a hereditary component to it, it's there from birth.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
  10. ME TOO

    Bet he was gay and his dad drove him to it.

    April 6, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • zach hamilton

      okay where are you evidence do you have any poilce records that show that rick warren beat his own son?

      April 6, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • zach hamilton

      okay where are you evidence do you have any poilce records that show that rick warren beat his own son?

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

      Just Google Rick Warren Uganda kill gays

      April 6, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
    • zach hamilton

      that has nothing to do with what i demanded. bring me proof that he in fact beat his son .i looked it up and it doesnt prove your point

      April 6, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
  11. Kathleen

    "God did not call him home, but he welcomed him." God bless the Warren family, my prayers will always be with you.

    April 6, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • wsay

      Would you feel the same if you knew the truth? That Rick Warren's son was gay and his father forced him to go to conversion therapy. This is what religion does to people.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
    • thiink

      Wsay- Rick's son was not gay, quit being a troll.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
  12. Balanced Brain

    This is such a tragic event for all concerned. Even though I am not a Christian and no follower of Rick Warren's, I do know that he is not terribly fundamentalist in his interpretation of the Bible. (This means he probably does not consign suicides to hell for one thing.), I have no idea if his son was gay or what Mr. Warren's position would have been if he was, though I believe he would have made an effort tobe understanding, since he worked with AIDS patients. For those who are posting critical and mean spirited comments here, may I point out that all "Christians" do not believe the same things and it is wrong to paint them all with the same brush. Stating what "all Christians" believe just reveals your ignorance and a determination to present all believers in a bad light. Not even all atheists believe the same thing and they certainly aren't all unkind and insensitive. May Matt rest in peace and may his family find comfort.

    April 6, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • nobody

      All athiests do believe the same thing. They believe there is no god. That is why they are called athiests.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
  13. Cedar Rapids

    Not sure I would be able to sit down and send an email out the same day as my son died.

    April 6, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
    • thiink

      He asked for prayer and his church is there for him. It's a family.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
  14. christy

    Mental illness affects all kinds of people, Christians included. Whatever issue you have with Rick Warren, now is not the time to play the blame game. His beloved son is dead. It's time to have compassion.

    April 6, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
    • Peter

      Amen

      April 6, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
  15. Tania

    Please turn off all comments. So many unnecessary opinions being shared.

    April 6, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • Andie

      Right, Tania. This is America and we are not allowed to express our opinions here......so some Moderator should shut us all up by erasing all our comments. (Especially if they are not in agreement with yours).

      April 6, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
  16. Andie

    These comments should not be about the Warren family's religious beliefs! This is the story of a young life tragically taken due to severe mental illness. Our hearts–or those who HAVE one– should go out to ANYONE who suffers a loss like this instead of nitpicking over our differences in religious persuasions!

    April 6, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • sulla

      The only reason the story is on this site is because of the Warrens' religious beliefs.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
    • Anon

      Yea sure how about his homóphobic dogma that are driving gay teens to suicide.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
    • Andie

      No, Sulla, this would have been written about ANY celebrity or person generally well-known to the public. Rick Warren happens to be well-known whether we like his religious convictions or not.

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

      Not everyone on the internet is in America ANDIE........but some people's world revolves around that belief

      April 6, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
  17. Austin

    How can I know there is a God?

    Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

    Acts 17:30 "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead."

    April 6, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
    • Francisco

      Why are you quoting scripture? This is a discussion forum. Please have the integrity to speak your own mind in your own words. I don't talk to parrots.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Quoting from the book of a religion doesn't equal 'proof'

      April 6, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • Austin

      Franscisco

      Hey what does Rick Warren do to keep busy? What is he all about?

      April 6, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
  18. zach hamilton

    I care about people and its hard to read comments that rick warren deserves some rudness. he is a person who is a human being and just because he is pastor does not give people the right to say that they had something to with matthew warren;'s death. i challenge all of you to tell someone who family member died and say "its your fault" i bet you will get kicked out of the persons house and are told get out of my face, stop staying that and treat others how you want to be treated

    April 6, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
  19. Rachael

    My heart and prayers go out to the family. Love to Mathew who was needed in Heaven.

    April 6, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
    • Stayxsie Johnson

      Lol! The sky faeries took him?

      April 6, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • zach hamilton

      what sky faries are you talking about. thiis woman express her sympathjy and you mocked her how rude of you. dont treat others like that. where are you manners

      April 6, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
    • Rafael

      My prayers go to his family to Rachel but God does not take them who take their lives. May God bless the Warrens still living. Amen.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
  20. Larry

    This thread is almost like whenever something is posted about evolution the x-tians come out of the woodwork to show how little they know in writing. Enjoying the flow back the other way??

    April 6, 2013 at 9:30 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.