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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. Josh Beames

    Seeing these hateful comments makes me even more secure with my faith....I feel for you folks that have to attack someone who has suffered a loss like this.....Gods Grace Rick.

    April 6, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      How exactly does it secure your faith?

      April 6, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
  2. MM

    This is just a very sad situation that can happen to anyone of us. The perfect family does not exist because every family is compose of imperfect individuals and we should be able to accept that reality as it is. Every family and every individual struggle with difficult situations in life. Some do better than others. Some people turn to God looking for hope, others to friends, others to others family members and so on. Some people the struggle with severe depression, that is a real disease just like diabetes or any cancer. In the same way that diabetes has nothing to do with your religious beliefs, depresion has nothing to do with them either. Both are chemical imbalance, one in your pancreas and another in your brain. People don't kill themselves just for fun and no father want to see a child commiting suicide. Because this is something that can happen to any of us I think we should show some sympathy with this family regardless of our agreement of disagreement with their personal beliefs. May their God give them some consolation in this difficult time.

    April 6, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
  3. greg lambert

    sorry for your loss,hes at peace now,he'll be your families angel now

    April 6, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
  4. Russell

    Praying for the family. And, praying for the people who are part of this forum in the loving and just name of Jesus. May you come to know His peace.

    April 6, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
  5. Maleficent

    Look, I think religion is a joke, but a guy is dead. A family is in mourning. We can all relate to that, and sympathize.

    April 6, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
    • Krunch

      Of course. But no one involved is here, and we are just having our usual wild-and-wooly debate.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
  6. biggles

    U r witnessing the best god-haters have to offer.

    April 6, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
    • Krunch

      With biggles, you are always witness to the illiteracy all-too-common in religious people.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:22 pm |
  7. Positive proof

    Prayer definitely is not effective health care.

    April 6, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
    • Russell

      That would be a clever response, however Matthew tried medication and counseling, too ... are you hating on those as well? Peace to you in Jesus name.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
  8. William

    Mourn as you should for the deep loss you have suffered. But you should also celebrate his life with practicing compassion towards others like he did in life.

    April 6, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
  9. Christian Who Believes In Heaven & Hell

    From the catechism of the catholic church:

    2282 [...]

    Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

    2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.

    If you would like to learn more about these things, try the online version of the catechism of the catholic church. Link is below, or just google "USCCB catechism" – that's the united states conference of catholic bishops website. I know the Warren's aren't Catholic, but there are far more similarities between Christian denominations than there are differences – and the hope for Heaven is universal.

    http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/epub/index.cfm

    April 6, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
  10. DocHollywood

    Even as a non-religious person, my heart goes out to Rick Warren and his family. I cannot imagine a worse pain than losing a child, no matter how old that child is. Whether I believe what Mr. Warren preaches or not is not relevant here. The loss of a human is what is relevant, and the pain that is left behind. I wish him and his family nothing but peace and healing.

    April 6, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
    • blinky

      Agree, DocH. This can happen in any family, religious or atheist. It's heart-rending when any young person takes their life, whatever their background is. And it's probably nobody's fault. That's all I've got to say.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
  11. Alan

    Maybe it wasn't the child that had mental illness, Maybe the Gun was schizophrenic, or depressed or felt insecure and just could take it anymore without shooting someone. According to the second amendment zionists, guns are people too. I expect the right wing would support funding mental health care for firearms, for they have turned their back on funding mental health for people.

    It is a shame boy could not find the health care he needed.

    April 6, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
  12. biggles

    He is rejoicing with unspeakable joy before the one you will beg to kill you, in that day.

    April 6, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
  13. TexAnn

    Hate to see any parent have to go thru the loss of a child. Deepest condolences.

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

    Wow! The hatred in here is so thick you could cut it with a knife. There are many days I'm sad to be part of the human race.

    April 6, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
    • Sherry

      I feel the same! So sad

      April 6, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
  15. donnylone

    Sleep my friend

    April 6, 2013 at 10:11 pm |
  16. FreddyCanuck

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't suicide get you a direct ticket to Hell? I wonder how the good Pastor is going to spin this without admitting his son is burning everlasting?

    April 6, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
    • xtc

      Do you really think these people believe the crap they sell? It is shtick for the yokels....snake oil.

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

      If they really believed in god and what the Bible says, they REALLY wouldn't act the way they do. They would be way too terrified to violate "Judge not, lest thou be judged" and all the rest.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • Russell

      There is nothing in scripture that says that suicide is an unforgivable sin. That is part of Roman Catholic dogma but not in scripture. There is room to argue that suicide could be a forgivable sin.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • biggles

      He is in the presence of the one that created the strings that you rely upon to absorb oxygen

      April 6, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
    • Bang

      You get to argue on what is a sin? Really? Do you get lawyers and all too? You get to negotiate with God? He isn't clear on the matter?

      Very sloppy rulemaker, that god guy.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
  17. judy

    we who believe know our redeemer lives. God said He knows the end from the beginning. we who believe, didnt always. we had to make that decision. God has given us all a free will to exercise.and He loves us enough to let us use it untill our bodies die. then we are His. i wouldn't go on a website of an unbeliever to say hateful things. it's time not spent well. where was Christ when this mentally ill young man took his life? He was on the cross.then He arose from the dead. Christ now sits at the right hand of the Father with pleasures forever more.Christ rolled the stone away for everyone who believes.. He was guilty of love. God is love. and eventually everyone of us stand alone at the throne.grace is the person of Christ. our loved ones aren't waiting for us they are expecting us. this fight you fight is with yourselves. God setteled eternity without us. and if we believe we have a glorious future. He patiently waits for us.

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

      I wish we had time machines. Then the believers could go back and see for themselves, that nothing written in the bible actually happened.

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

      God didn't say any of that stuff! Some flea-bitten, half-assed preacher did! If there was a Jesus Christ (a big if), then he took his story to the grave. This Bible you read is just the musings of a bunch of believers who wrote stories that they wanted to be true.

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

      Good luck with that Judy.. I hope your delusions make you at least feel good. I prefer to live in reality.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      What pleasures exactly?
      What do you hope to do for eternity?

      April 6, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
    • Anon

      Listening to homóphobic christian propaganda 24/7/365 will probably make me off myself as well.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
    • TheUniverseDoesNotCareWhoYouAre

      I have seen God's work...I'm not impressed. Why would you want to glorify a "being" that allows the suffering of human beings...even worse...the suffering of animals? Would you want to be friends with someone who "sits on the sidelines" while people are tortured...starving...dying? If you do believe in a God...plot your human existence of roughly 75 years in a universe that is so old and large it is laughable to think your life is significant in any way, shape, or form. To think that Earth is the center of a universe that has no end...what are the odds? Zero. Live your life. Be kind to people and to animals. Make a difference. Don't force your beliefs on anyone. Whether one believes what you believe matters not.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Well said, Universe.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:24 pm |
  18. Adam Read

    I am what you might call "recovering from being an evangelical." I get these people, and I understand their instincts.

    For over two years now, however, I have been trying to bring to light some very serious problems with the theology of the Bible that the church doesn't seem to be aware of....or able to admit. I have run into this cognitive wall over and over again, and it comes out in the linguistic patterns of the written conversations I have had with pastors and elders I have known for nearly a decade.

    The very serious problem with how the books of the Bible were written is that they don't ever even attempt to invite or introduce the possibility that the things they are writing might in fact be wrong. Even the character of God himself prohibits anyone questioning or testing him. So, what happens as people read these stories over and over, the conversation simply never comes up...and if someone challenges their faith...and they go to the Bible to look for answers, they are simply never going to find a trace of what I'm trying to say here in the sacred books. It's as if the words themselves were organized in a pattern that projected a mindset of isolation into the readers.

    This is the very construct that causes so many problems for Christians, Jews, Muslims, and probably many other religions. If you cannot admit that you might in fact be wrong, then your life will be spent defending something vehemently that no one can truly substantiate.

    Pastor Warren and anyone else that follows the Bible can easily spend their entire lives walking through the halls of the Bible, and pasting the phrases and stories that were used in it into parts of modern day sentences. Yet, if you are never permitted to exit the maze to begin with, you will never know that you are in one at all.

    While I make no ignorant claims about the ability to save his son from suicide, I can tell you for sure that many of the assumptions of Judaism and Christianity are firmly embedded into the study of modern psychology. After all, much of modern psych has been developed in western civilization, and western civilization is very heavily rooted in the Bible.

    If you are not permitted to challenge the Bible, then you will have a very hard time challenging modern psych as well, for they both take on the very unquestionable personality of the same alleged authority. The DSM-IV may as well just be called "God's Book of Unclean Lepers," and it assumes, just like the Bible, that the clinicians are the elite and perfect "normal" ones and that everyone else that looks different than them has the disorder.

    This just isn't the case.

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

      You don't have to read much of the bible before a rational person realizes it's a fabricated heap of fantastic rubbish, about a god whose recorded ridiculously limited powers would only impress cave men.

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

    The Westboro' church has regular bonfires. I'm sure they would oblige.

    April 6, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
  20. fekt

    De mortuis nil nisi bonum.

    April 6, 2013 at 10:03 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.