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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. David Battle

    Physician, heal thyself.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
  2. jbr

    What is wrong with us Americans?? This pastor, his wife and family are feeling the pain of death of a loved one; and some are negating the loss of this precious life. Is it too much to ask that all of us jor just a sacred period of time mourn this loss of a person of GOD .

    April 6, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
  3. thetwentiesarehard

    My condolences go out to the family...mental illness is no joke at all, and as a person who has struggled with depression, and even still struggling at age 28, I can attest that life in your 20s is no walk in the park...trying to figure out who you are, what you want out of life...it can be quite difficult...not condoning suicide, but can relate to those feelings of darkness. May he rest in peace.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
  4. Naima Jalal

    At least he did't take a gun to kill innocent pple before killing himself. Sorry for his family. This must be painful. I cant imagine.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
  5. Inspiration Sucks

    I have read posts on here from someone named inspiration, very indecent and intolerant. I find it strange that this atheist ALWAYS INSIST that everyone not believe in anything but what they believe. Sounds like a intolerant Christian, Muslim, Jew... that insists that their belief is the only true belief, anyone see a difference, their beliefs are all different, but they share the same ignorance, lact of respect and understanding for those unlike them. Many People who are religious, who their beliefs personally and only don't want their right to practice and believe infringed, just like many agnostics that simply don't believe. Maybe we should take a lesson from the silent majority and shut the hell up, if what others believe doesn't impact you.

    Also, I have family members who are are gay and have had friends that have killed themselves after lifelong battles with mental illnesses and inherited addictions. To the idiots who are gay and just want to blame Warrens sons suicide on religion or his intolerance, I would ask you to stuff it where the sun doesn't shine. Your intolerance and pitiful statements are exactly the reason why intolerance againts gays persist and why they don't have rights they deserve, your stupidity and ignorance is a glaring example of the ignorance of those who want to prevent you from getting married, even though it has no bearing or impact on them. Congratulations for showing us all, bitterness, ignorance and intolerance is alive and well. Go eat cake!

    April 6, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
  6. Thomas ReichName*

    There was a show on PBS last year that I watched. It showed a family with an 8 year old son who was suicidal. I related to him because
    I've gone through the same thing my whole life.
    If you've know someone suffering with schizophrenia you might be aware that they can hear numerous voices telling them to do bad things, including harming themselves.
    The kind of depression I've gone through is similar to the schizophrenic's experience only it's not other people's voices I hear, it's my own.
    I'd like to offer condolences to Rev Warren's family.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
  7. Leslie Ann Warren

    My Sympathy, Condolences, & Prayers Goes Out 2 The Rick Warren Family w Blessings; RIP Matthew Ur In Almighty Father God's Arms Now Where No Sorrow or Pain Can Bother U Anymore w The Guidance Of Ur Big Brother Jesus In His Name, Blood, & Luv Always ❤ Beyond!!

    April 6, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
  8. nelly

    Being a sufferer of mental illness myself my heart goes out to the Warren family. It is such a struggle every day for me. I wouldn't be writing this right now if it wasn't for the Lord carrying me at times. No one knows the difficulty mental illness plays on the person nor their loved ones. Sometimes the emotional pain is so unbearable. No one knows what it is like unless they have walked in our shoes. God Bless and my condolences to the family.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
  9. decoma

    Though I think this man is a moron, I feel for his family. What a terrible loss.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • Elliott Carlin

      We'll be saying the same thing about you when you decide to take your own life.
      thanks.

      April 6, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • JB

      I respect your opinion. I also respect the fact you gave your condolences. That was the right and humane thing to do.

      So many jerks on here can't even do that. I'd like to wish ill will on them but I don't need to. Life has a way of sorting these things out itself. As you give... so you shall receive. And if you treat people like trash you will find yourself someday being the 'trash'. Universal law of life applying to the religious and non-religious.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
  10. prairieguy

    I disagree with Warren on most things but express my condolences for the loss of his son, having lost members of my family I know the pain of such a loss and know the knowledge that it was suicide makes things even more painful.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
  11. C in NC

    At this time, all these parents need is love and understanding. They are living every parent's nightmare- the loss of a child. It does not matter what you believe or whether you agree with their ministry, to show cruelty, judgment and blame at time like this is crass. Remember that misfortune can hit anyone at any time, no matter their faith ( or lack of it) how would you feel if you were in their shoes right now and were getting such vicious comments? You may not like the man, ( and I do not), but to take joy in his pain is reprehensible. Show some kindness! Treat him as you would like to be treated if you were ever unlucky enough to be in the same position.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • oldowl

      You write: "to show cruelty, judgment and blame at time like this is crass."

      As a Christian myself I believe that to show cruelty, judgment and blame to others AT ANY TIME is crass, or worse.

      My condolences to the Warren family, and I hope that their loss will find some salvation in helping them to be a little kinder to others.

      April 6, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • JB

      People don't have any respect for the living or dead anymore. Sad. This world is messed up.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
  12. OvernOut

    I have a son the same age who has had to drop his therapist. His company was sold, and the new owners do not provide insurance. New girlfriend is working wonders, so we are hopeful. I am very sorry for this young person's family and friends. Here's one family that understood that depression and other anomalies of the brain are illnesses, and not "demons". The sports brain injuries get all the press lately, there are so many other persons needing help out there. It's past time to step up research on the brain.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
  13. Tim Hurley

    Those who paint all mega-church pastors as pulpit pimps couldn't be more wrong. Here's a guy fighting the good fight of faith and at the end of the day is a regular dad just like us. With two wonderful sons, I've no idea what kind of grief and pain Rick & Kay are experiencing right now. The most we can do is intercede and stand in the gap for them and all parents struggling to maintain a connection with their children.
    Hug your kids tonight.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
  14. Akira

    I cannot express sympathy enough at what I know is the worst scenario that Pastor Warren and his wife have ever faced as parents.
    Their pain must be unimaginable.
    I want to extend my sincerest sympathy to Pastor Warren and his wife; this is something no family should ever have to go through.
    I am so, so sorry.
    I feel your pain; truly I do.
    This transcends faith and atheism; this is a human pain.
    Shut up, people.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • JR Ewing

      What about the pain the Warrens caused gay people nationwide?

      April 6, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
    • Hmmmmm

      You can sheck any church out, and I can guarentee that Saddle does more for people with AIDS than anyone.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
  15. stewarttony

    I do not share Mr. Warren's beliefs, but I share his pain. As a father, to lose a son, I cannot think of anything worse. Mental illness is a tragic disease and my thoughts are with his family and all those others who battle this condition, and those who love and care for them.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
  16. mike

    This seemed relevant:

    [vimeo 13704095 w=500 h=281]

    April 6, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
  17. Christopher

    I have never agreed with Rick Warren's preaching, but this is a peronal family tragedy that transcends political or religious divisions, I pray for the Warrens and hope that they find comfort in the knowledge that the grace of God will support them in the time of incredible pain.

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

      Agreed – it's a very sad time for the family and a struggle shared by many.

      April 6, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
  18. Babs

    Like the old folks used to say "it is always the shoemaker's kids that had no shoes."

    April 6, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
  19. Marvin

    I don't want to blame anyone, but one has to read "pioneer of the megachurch movement" and then what they said about his son's struggle and then wonder where the pastor's priorities fell.

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

      making mega money like they all do... in the myth salesmen business.

      April 6, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
  20. abbydelabbey

    Mental illness is just that - an illness - like cancer, heart disease, etc. It is very, very difficult to treat. My heart and prayers go out to the Warren family.

    April 6, 2013 at 6:19 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.