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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. Brenda

    I don't know where some of you are saying that Christians interpose mental illness for someone being gay.....that is far from the truth....my mother was one of the most devout Christians I will ever know, yet she suffered from mental illness most of her life....it had nothing to do with her being gay but fighting a debilitating illness....that's where some of you are ignorant....mental illness is an ILLNESS just as any physical illness....and by the way every article I read Matthew's death stated that he committed suicide......My prayers are with the Wardens....I know that God's grace is always sufficient.....

    April 6, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
    • ummmm....

      "my mother was one of the most devout Christians I will ever know, yet she suffered from mental illness most of her life.."

      yea.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
    • Groch

      Warren, not warden.

      Rick Warren was a massive homophobe. Had his son been gay, his overbearing response would have driven the boy into mental illness and suicide – quite common still. Not as bad as it used to be, but still very prevalent.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
    • Dick Weed

      Would you like to pray to my staff? Your grace on my staff would be sufficient

      April 6, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
  2. Ilya

    I used to be a believer. Because of events as of late, (tragedies such as this and worse), I am not anymore. But my deepest condolences to the Warren family. Whether we believe or not, as human beings we need to empathize with their pain.

    April 6, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
  3. Taumy

    "After a lifelong battle with mental illness"

    And he had access to a gun.

    April 6, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
    • Shawn

      Pretty messed up, isn't it? But mental health is one of the least talked about subjects in gun control. People focus on magazine sizes and pistol grips instead. Crazy.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
    • tony

      Perhaps we should pray to god to turn the NRA back to the path of righteousness?

      April 6, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
    • biggles

      Report Dorothy to local authorities

      April 6, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
    • Ex f actly

      that's the first thing that came to mind when I started to read the article. Then if the pastor was the owner, that's like a double strike, what kind of pastor has a gun?

      April 6, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
  4. Darwin

    Well said, I am surprised how the parents put this as a "medical condition" where god and Jesus are not a part of it..... Pock one or the other. ...... Religion or medicine don't pick and choose to your liking.

    April 6, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
    • edward

      that young man was involved in something that his parents did not know about.And about going to heaven , is that a joke or somthing like that.which bible was he reading that said if you kill urself u'll go to heaven.it is only GOD who gives life and HE can take it.that kid has already boarded a direct train to hell

      April 6, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
    • Dick Weed

      Hey edward, your god sucks.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:22 pm |
  5. yeah

    moby – read michael behe's darwins black box.

    April 6, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      I have. It raises no issues not completely addressed and thoroughly debunked by the facts of evolution.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
    • Anon

      Hmm I.D.iot material that I can use as toilet paper..

      April 6, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      Ah, yes. A book free of peer review and peer reviewed articles. THAT's what should inform your views about science.
      [http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District/4:Whether_ID_Is_Science#Page_88_of_139]

      The lengths you religies will go to maintain your ignorance continue to astound.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • biggles

      Have you seen the peer reviews of dorothy's load?

      April 6, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • biggles

      Read Fran Collins. Who BTW will be using that one hundred mill from Obama to study why atheists can't think

      April 6, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
  6. Casey Collins

    Again, mental illness and access to guns....makes no sense to me especially in light of what has been happening over the last year.

    April 6, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • READ IT AND WEAP

      I blame easy access to Bibles in the home. They should really be locked in a safe.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
    • biggles

      He's gone. What about dodo? Does she have access to anything she could use to harm others besides her face?

      April 6, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
  7. tony

    Children are born with brains. Having parents who believe in absolute fantasy, and make millions doing it, horribly affects children who cannot also throw away their natural rationality and consciences.

    April 6, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
  8. Roxanne

    My heart goes out to the family; to the mother. I lost my son to the same tragic act in 2009. He was my firstborn and was 16 years old. I can so relate to their pain and grief. Please know that God will comfort and shroud you with HIS amazing love and grace. There is no greater pain than to lose a child. Mary knew it when her son was on the cross; Job knew it so well; Adam and Eve knew it with no only losing a son but having one son kill the other; so many heartaches on this side of Heaven. Roxanne

    April 6, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • Dick Weed

      I lost my brother who was my parents first child. Nothing worse then losing a child. I felt for you at the first part of your read, but then you started to talk about your amazing unicorn fantasy about some god that doesn't exist. When is everyone going to wake up to reality that religion is the biggest joke ever created by man?

      April 6, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
  9. Jeffision

    Terribly tragic and sad karma for Rick Warren if his son killed himself because he was gay and had internalized Christian gay hatred toward gays, even from his own father, all his life. That will be quite a burden for Rick to carry if it's the case.

    April 6, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
  10. The evidence is in

    “In spite of . . . prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided,” Warren wrote"

    Proof positive: prayer doesn't work.

    April 6, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
    • Phazon

      He does according to his will and always remember God can ressurect anyone so what makes you think this young man won't be?

      April 6, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
    • tony

      Rational assessment of evidence has no place in the thinking of the religious.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • Russell

      I guess it is proof that medication does not work either since he tried that as well ...

      April 6, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
    • Ashley

      That's powerful! Warren admitting that prayer didn't work for his son.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
    • Ashley

      @Phazon.. what makes you think he will.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
    • JS

      If prayer is a request to a higher power, I think the possible responses would be

      yes

      no

      and if it is a higher power then I would think it would be reasonable for the faith believing person to accept that the higher power may have greater knowledge of the world than a human with finite reasoning powers. I'm a little alarmed at how superior all the non-theists all think they are in the reasoning department. We are all humans with the same capacity. What we choose to believe personally does not make one person more enlightened than the next. I would think a tolerant person would understand that, but I'm disturbed because all I hear from the non-theists is that they are right, enlightened and the other side is 'wacko' and 'war-mongering' and 'intolerant'. I'm not against your truth claims non-theists, but please stop judging the rest of us who choose to believe. We stand on the same intellectual ground as you that we live as finite humans who do not have infinite knowledge of all things in the world. From there, we all choose to believe in something or not and the question becomes what is more reasonable. I'll have a conversation about what is more reasonable and why I think having faith is more reasonable to believe than not having faith in anything. Please stop generalizing all of us who have faith in something if you don't. That is very judgmental. Instead state why you are convinced you are right and I'll be happy to reply to county your belief's and let you know why I'm convinced otherwise.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
  11. mysterious

    I blame this on the teaching of Evolution in high schools.

    April 6, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
    • Duh

      It's obviously the teaching of Home Economics in schools.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
    • tony

      More like making guns available to people who shouldn't have them.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • TheBob

      I blame it on teaching the theory of gravity. It is after all "just a theory". Why do they insist on teaching it as "truth"? Just look at the results now.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      I blame it on the teaching of germ theory. Everyone knows evil spirits are responsible for disease. How can such tiny organisms as bacteria cause disease in a human being? The scientists just won't admit they are wrong. I even have one obscure, peer review-free book to back me up, so I must be right.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
  12. Jim8

    Quite a few subjects here. First, I'm very sorry for Matthew.

    As for the family, it seems that it is true that the father made his life hell with his beliefs and forced conversion therapy. Add to that easily available guns, and suicide is often the result.

    Pastor Warren has a lot to answer for at the pearly gates.

    April 6, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
    • tony

      He won't be going there, or anywhere else, except to dust, like all the rest of us. Atheism isn't avoidable past death.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
  13. zach hamilton

    okay i had enough of reading these post it makes me sad that people are taking a family and slandering and smearing the family name does anyone has evidence that rick beat his son. does anyone has any proof that he is gay. my point is that people are taking a man career and making stupid conclusions just because what he belive in. what right does it give to anyone to pass conclusions on a man who lost his son. Unless you are a mentalll health professional or a family member of the Warren family you dont know about the family past so stop slandering the family's name

    April 6, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
    • Anon

      Just Google Rick Warren Uganda kill gays.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • zach hamilton

      that has nothing to do what i said i just looked it up, comment on what i said if you please

      April 6, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
    • Anon

      I'll probably off myself if I knew that my own father is a homóphobic sociopath even though I'm not gay.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
    • zach hamilton

      Rick warren is not a sociapath look up what socialpath is and tel me what that means are you a mental health professioal how do you know rick is a sociapath

      April 6, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
    • zach hamilton

      sorry you feel that way what evidence that proves he is a socialpath

      April 6, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
    • Anon

      Apparently endorsing a kill the gays bill without any worries about the results isn't the very definition of a sociopath.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:11 pm |
    • Grolch

      I was wondering how you even notice mental illness in a belief system that is okay with faith healing and talking in tongues and believing your imagination is actually God and that your internal dialog is actually god. I mean, how do you tell?

      Unless they decided Matthew was sick because he was gay or doubted god.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:11 pm |
    • zach hamilton

      sociopath- person with a psychopathic personality whose behavior is antisocial, often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.
      a defination from the dictionary online rick warren who behavior are not crinimals but you are half right on the defination but this is what i found

      April 6, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
  14. Andie

    I am a Christian, but don't know that much about Rick Warren except that he is a pastor of some megachurch in California. I do believe that people are BORN gay, so it can't be a sin. If Rick Warren's son WAS gay, and he was chastised by his father for it as some people here are inferring, then it is even more tragic in my eyes.

    April 6, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • duh

      you are NOT a Christian, the term means follower of Christ, a follower of Christ reads the word, and if u did u would know its wrong.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • Darwin

      What a permanent solution to a temporary problem.....really, Jesus couldn't save him? Meds? Why would you even need that if Jesus loved him?

      April 6, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • tony

      Christians have exactly the same life expectancy and illnesses as the rest of us. Juts ask any life insurance company. Bottom line profit tables never lie.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
  15. JT

    So he had mental health problems for years, yet there were guns in the house? Americans' obsession with guns know no bounds.

    April 6, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • Myrtle

      guns have nothing to do with it-my uncle a liberal democrate with no guns in the house killed himself 2 months ago by slashing his wrist-people who want to die need no guns get a grip

      April 6, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
    • GW

      I believe this 27 year old man was found in his own home dead from suicide. He was depressed and talked about suicide for a long long time. Don't you think he would have committed the suicide by whatever means he could? Why do you take the opportunity to jump on the gun-law-bandwagon along with the other haters that include the anti-Christian theme .....instead of feeling remorse for a lost life? I may not have seen eye-to-eye with his father's politics or even his religion...but, I do know they loved each other and were a family that tried to live out love.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
  16. ron

    Wow! He looked a lot like Harlind Williams.

    April 6, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
    • ron

      Sorry, typo. 'Harland'

      April 6, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
  17. Don Mars

    I was curious to see the statements of sympathy that would be written. Instead most of what I see is hatred, once again being spread, mostly against Christians. Evidently I stumbled upon a blog for those with child-like behaviors.

    April 6, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
    • Zingo

      Hi Don!

      You are looking for the blog for self-righteous twits. Two doors down on the right, just past the argument clinic.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
    • SuZieCoyote

      Why do you think this is, that so many people seem to hate Christians? Oh yeah, you all are going to heaven and the rest of us are burning for eternity. Smug, self-righteous and judgmental (and continually found hypocritical0. Could this maybe be the reason?

      I feel sorry for the young man's mother, but not the father. Warren is reaping what he's been sowing.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
  18. john

    After reading many of the comments, I wish he had taken an AR-15 and taken a couple dozen liberals with him.

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

      Tch... tch...
      Is that your god's plan?
      Why are you angry? Cause your bull**** is not acceptable to others? Get some help.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
    • JT

      Did your god tell you to write such hate?

      April 6, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Congrats on behaving as your god would and not as he commands. After all, he drowned all humans including pregnant mothers and small children because he was a little upset at them, and while he commands that you love your enemies, he tortures his in a pit of everlasting fire for all eternity.

      Way to follow your god's example!

      April 6, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • Frhoads

      Behold Christian charity at work.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
  19. Anon

    Kinda hard to take pity on a homóphobic cretin especially after endorsing a kill the gays bill in Uganda and whose homóphobic dogma possibly drove gay teens towards suicide.

    April 6, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
  20. Jamie

    God Bless the Warren family and hold them up at this difficult time.

    April 6, 2013 at 9:43 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.