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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. gremlinus

    Sympathy to the family. Struggling with mental illness is always difficult and far too many people lose the battle.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
  2. thirdshift

    As an Atheist it is still a deeply saddening event when someone loses someone close to them, no matter what their ideas and beliefs are. I apologize on behalf of everyone who sees it as an opportunity to get in a personal attack.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • Hammy

      you have restored some of my faith in mankind

      April 6, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
    • thirdshift

      I have a little boy who we almost lost shortly after he was born, and even coming close was terrible. I may disagree with someone's ideas, values, etc., but there are things that are just universally terrible that I hope nobody ever has to go through. Unfortunately the world doesn't always work out that way.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
  3. unknown

    We must be spiritual minded in dealing with any situation, and in this case the devil got the best of matthew; but we also must remember that we are tempted daily in our with Jesus christ, Yeshewa, the devil always tempt us and yes we must pray every moment for the devil can trick us as well. Prayers never go unheard it just may be someone else out there that God may want their attention; I do not know. We need to ask God and He will tell us, but the fact still remains that Mr and Mrs. Warren's son has passed and we need to be in prayer for them, for this is a test for them.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
  4. Rain

    Wait...he was mentally ill at birth? How exactly was this determined? Didn't know you could tell the mental ill newborns from the normal ones.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • Michael J.

      Don't you read? The exact words were, "struggled from birth with mental illness." Which is to say, he struggled with it for a very long time, even from an early age.

      Next time, actually read the article before you post absurd comments.

      April 6, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • Martha C

      Rain is right...

      April 6, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
  5. KARL MARX

    How very sad. For him and his family. I doubt PR reads CNN posts, but I hope they find a cure for this, maybe in the by-and-by.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
  6. Peter

    The Catholic Church teaches that suicide leads to hell. The Bible, however, says Christ died for all sins and that God's judgment is based on knowledge. A person who commits suicide may not be mentally coherent. Regardless, Christ died for all sins and so he died for people who would commit suicide too. -– Please refer to 2283 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church before you go and accuse Catholics of judging other people's salvation. Thank you.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • tandy

      it's not clear that you are referring to someone else's post.

      April 6, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • Peter

      Well you figured it out I have hope in people's reading skills.

      April 6, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • kryg

      My reading of Catholic Catechism which states, "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." is only God alone who knows whether a person who commits suicide is in hell and we should not judge them. People who committed suicide are give Christian burial in the Catholic Church since people who committed suicide usually are: a) not emotionally or psychological free and b) could have repented during the process of dying. God alone knows what is happening in the hearts of these persons.

      April 6, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
  7. thiink

    You can always count on ignorant people to make jokes about people's death on a liberal forum where people believe it's ok to poke another man in the doogie howser.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
    • BD

      And only a real d1khead would make this about politics.

      April 6, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • tandy

      this doesn't have anything to do with liberalism or conservatism. There are plenty of haters to go around on both sides. Don't delude yourself into thinking that your side of life is good and kind and compassionate and the other is evil, dark, and hateful.

      April 6, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • Peter

      This is what happens when the State becomes your God and your religion. Scary thing is most of them don't know that they do this.

      April 6, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • tandy

      Gosh BD, you used so many fewer words and yet you expressed it so much better than I did.

      April 6, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    April 6, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • Logic leads me to Atheism

      "In spite of America's best doctors, meds, counselors, and PRAYERS for healing....." I guess it does change things doesn't it

      April 6, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
    • Bryan

      "Thiink," wrote..."Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things"

      First and foremost, whatever our social and political views, we should respect a family has suffered a tragic loss. Arbitrary comments, such as the above (really, bacteria is alive, so you're inferring it prays? My neighbor's kid's hamster prays...exactly what about and how is it better for it?). "Thiink," drop the bible and pick up a secular educational book every now and again, I promise you won't burn in hell for it. As for the son being gay, if true, now is not the time to cast that first stone at Rick and his family, morn their loss, and let us move the LGBT cause forward in a political or social article.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
  9. Levi

    This is sad......Rick wareren has been a pillar in churches for years...... However, the posts I'm hearing are sad. You might not be religious, you might even hate religion but please show respect for someone else's life. It could be you one day dealing with the same situation....

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

      I'm reminded of the story of Job from the bible. I graduated 2 years before Rick from the same high school. I remember well the Jesus Movement, when Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple came to Ukiah, as well as the Moonies, the City of 10,000 Buddhasa and several oher "religions". I have looked at many churches, religions and cults over the past 45 + years, found them lacking in what I was searching for. I have lost family and friends to suicide. As a "wanna be" Christian I have far to go and much can be learned from the teachings of Saint Augustine, Martin Luther,the monk Macarius and others in their search for spirtuality. I must settle for a spirituality of imperfection. That being said for those who have derived glee or satisfaction from Rick's loss, may you suffer the same pain, anguish and torment but without benefit of friends, family or community to help you through it all. As I have stated, I have far to go.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
  10. Caspian

    Heartfelt sympathies to the Warren family.

    My prayers are with you at this deeply saddening moment.

    And may the Lord's grace see the family through these troubled times.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • JB

      Thank you for your kind comment. It is appreciated. Humane and respectful comments are what is needed now. Not perverse and judgmental comments.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
    • JB

      What are you... his next door neighbor or something? Maybe people think you're a sick murderer.....

      April 6, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
  11. Steve

    Great to see people who love to malign Christianity and accuse every person of faith as intolerant are finding their way into this post to ridicule a person who lost his child. Classless and pathetic words from all you enlightened and open minded folks. Thanks for showing us the true example we should follow.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Nice to see you generalizing.

      April 6, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • JB

      Unfortunately, you are right. That sums up the majority of the comments. I've been reading many of them myself and see the same. CNN should disable comments for this story. People have no compassion and kindness left. Even when somebody dies. Sad.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
  12. mhopepdx

    While there is much to dislike about Rick Warren, this is a tragedy. My thoughts are with his family.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • Colette

      I agree. My brother is schizophrenic, and religion has nothing to do with it. I have empathy for his family, though I have no respect for their beliefs. I do note that most people are not "mentally ill from birth" but develop the illness in their late teens.

      April 6, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • JB

      I agree. Thank you for your respectful comment.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
  13. concerned on looker

    I turn 50 on Monday, my life is not what it used to be, but I haven't given up, I need 3-surgeries, I have no insurance, out of work, going on disability, new marriage, starting our 4th year next week, and I can't imagine giving up. My cousin committed suicide when he turned 50, I made a wise crack about it and an hour later, the LAPD Swat and Police were at my door with 12-guns to my head, then I was off to a 5150 lockdown over a joke, snide remark. Taking one's own life is the ultimate blashephy of the Holy Spirit, but I can't judge this and nobody should either. Everybody has a right to their opinion, but some of the posts seem a bit harsh, I don't even know the kid, and I teared up!

    April 6, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • tandy

      I hope your life works out ok. Sometimes you just need to ride to the other side. Good luck.

      April 6, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • Martha C

      Taking one's life is a blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? Yeah, you don't judge...much

      April 6, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • Griffith

      Please read your Bible a lot, it is the pure Word of God. It is like having Jesus right by your side, which He is, you just can't see him. Being around Christians will help build faith. I fear for the soul of Rick Warren's child, the Bible seems clear that it may be an unpardonable sin. An extreme case would be the people trapped on the upper floors on 9/11 that were being burned to death, some jumped to their deaths. That would not be considered suicide by God. God alone of course is the ultimate Judge, but I don't think people should ever consider suicide as an option for leaving this world. With God's help, and what strength that we have, we can persevere to either the end of our life or until Jesus returns.

      April 6, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • JB

      Worry about your own life and its concerns. Don't judge other people's minds and hearts.

      Just remember this... just by human instinct most people want to stay alive. The people that kill themselves (at least the mentally ill) are only giving up because they can't take the pain anymore.

      If you've never been mentally ill then nobody cares what your opinion is on this anyway because it doesn't matter. It's just a damn opinion. Walk down this road a few miles.... you'll probably give up before long too. Mental illness is a disease, a destroyer of life and an invisible torture. It doesn't spare somebody just because they're a Christian either!

      So, before you make yourself look more foolish just excuse yourself, give your condolences and walk away. That's the right and respectful and humane thing to do. Let God be the judge.

      April 6, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • Andie

      Griffith: Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is not the taking of one's own life. He was mentally ill. Inflicted with an illness that is very difficult to treat or cure. God certainly is aware of illnesses on this earth. I hardly think he would be held accountable for a severe illness. The one unforgivable sin–Blashphemy against the Holy Spirit– is generally believed to be the hardening of one's own heart and repeatedly turning away from Jesus and salvation. Please do not judge this young man because of his illness. My heart goes out to the entire Warren family the same as it would go out to ANY family who lost a family member in this tragic way.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
  14. gladitsnight

    Why does he keep proclaiming that his son was "mentally ill since birth." It sounds like he wants to totally distance himself and absolve himself for any responsibility in his son's illness. Mental illness is a combination of genetics and environment.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • The real Tom

      What gives you the idea that the son was gay? And why does it seem so impossible that someone might suffer from mental illness all of his life? Mental illness MAY be affected by both environment and genetics, but not in all cases. If you don't know more about mental illness than that, glad, you should keep your ignorance to yourself.

      April 6, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • Taylor

      Hello.........you have NO idea what you would have done had you been Rick Warren's kid!!

      April 6, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
    • Peter

      Children can have bipolar disorder or Schizophrenia.

      April 6, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
    • iceman18

      It does sound like he wants to distance and absolve himself. Mental illness since birth?

      April 6, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
    • Andie

      Iceman: Yes, you can be born with mental illness. Yes, it is genetic. I can remember suffering from depression as a small child. My father's side of the family also all suffered from depression, yet my mother's side did not. I do not blame my father for my affliction any more than my father should blame HIS parents. IT IS AN ILLNESS. Why should Rick Warren be considered as trying to "absolve himself" from any blame. He could not have "caused" his son to have severe clinical depression, if his son was not genetically predisposed to it.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
    • Hmmmmm

      Because he was.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
  15. Pat in IL

    I'm so sorry that your family has had to endure this. You are in. My prayers.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
  16. Alice

    No matter what you think of Pastor Rick Warren–or any other Christian, or belief system–tonight he is just a Dad. And his wife is just a Mom. Show some respect. Start with some self respect. How could some of these remarks display such a callous regard for the heartbreak of others.
    Pastor and Mrs. Warren, my heart goes out to you. We will be praying for you and your family.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • tandy

      Thanks, Alice. More people probably agree with you than disagree.

      April 6, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • JB

      Thank you. I appreciate the kind comment.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
  17. Shannon Lewis

    😦

    April 6, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
  18. tandy

    Very sad. No one who does not experience chronic depression can possibly know what it's like. No one should judge him. i'm not a Rick Warren fan, but it's very sad that he and his wife have to go through this.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • STERLING

      I concur with your post. I may not agree with Mr. Warren's view points on gays and his religious views, but him and his wife has lost a dear child and we should show our respect. We all love our families and the Warren's loved their child. It's not easy dealing with mental illness and I'm sure they tried every avenue possible to assist their child.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
  19. rev.Augustin Joseph

    May God be with this family.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • JB

      Thank you, Rev. The comment is appreciated. So many judgmental and sick comments on here. Somebody died here! We need to show some compassion and respect. That is what you've done here.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
  20. George

    Amen

    April 6, 2013 at 6:02 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.