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. Toughlove

    The Warren's are experiencing the deepest pain and grief imaginable. The God-haters that spew their vitriol against them and their God show their own bitterness, angst and personal despair without the excuse of a lost loved one. The Warren's will indeed heal with their help of their God. Those that are showing their ignorance here, simply will not.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
    • DInorah

      Amen to that

      April 6, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
  2. Maggi

    I do not believe suicides go to hell. I'm not sure why some Christians believe that. I suppose they see it as an unforgivable sin, but let's say I gossip or tell a lie and then get hit by a truck and die before I repent...am I going to Hell? I think not. If that were the case, we Christians would be walking around on egg shells, so afraid to make a mistake or screw up and then spending 24 hours a day repenting for everything we may or may not have done just to make sure we make it to Heaven. So much for God's grace. The Lord I follow doesn't work that way.

    But even if you want to believe that...why would you say it out loud? What happened to having some dignity and decency? I am an evangelical Christian and yet, at my mom's funeral, one of my cousins who has really gone off the deep end with Christianity, actually questioned whether or not she was in Heaven because she was Catholic. Like, WTH? Who says that at a funeral?

    I would like to thank many of you for proving that atheists and Christians do have one thing in common...there are callous idiots on both sides.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
    • Alicia

      Maggi, Amen!, only the Lord knows our hearts and our pain and I fully trust that he makes provisions for everything.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
    • JB

      Yes, I agree. With all that you said.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
    • Elise

      While I have been a Christ follower for over 40 years, I still become frustrated with the dichotomy of some believers. We say that Christ's blood sacrifice is enough, but then we strive and work and judge our way through life trying to bask in the illusion of our own righteousness. If the blood was enough, then it is enough – even to cover someone's suicide.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
  3. Just saying

    Suicide is an option for anyone, but do you think his parents believe he is in hell? If he was sick then he shouldn't be, right?

    Can God make a mountain so big he could not move it?

    April 6, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
    • JB

      Mental illness has taken many people's lives and it will take many more before this earth stops spinning. It is hell on earth.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
  4. Truth Prevails :-)

    No family deserves to go through this and if anything this just goes to prove that we all share one thing in common-we're all human...tragedy like this happens regardless of belief or disbelief. The family deserves the time to grieve without hearing their faith torn apart...do it any other time but not now, give them the respect they deserve...my heart is with them and our night skies just got a bit brighter as another star takes its place.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
    • vlaughlin

      Well said!

      April 6, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
    • JB

      This is why CNN should disable comments on a story like this. Because apparently in 2013 people in general (yes, I'm generalizing based on the MAJORITY of the comments on here) can't seem to show respect and compassion for even the dead anymore. That's messed up!

      April 6, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
  5. Adajane

    If this man had accepted Jesus Christ, he is definitely in heaven at this very moment. The Lord Jesus Christ is so loving and compassionate and only He knows the anguish & mental illness this young man was suffering. Furthermore no Christian is promised that our time on earth will be an easy walk. Jesus never had an easy walk on earth so why should a non-believer question our difficulties.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
    • Just saying

      Good point. Essentially Jesus committed suicide because he was the son of god and could have escaped the crucification at any time. Give this family a break.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
    • IslandAtheist

      For the people that believe he's in a better place this must be good news.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
  6. vlaughlin

    Though I don't agree with Christianity, I once almost took my own life many years ago. It is a pain difficult to recover from. Instead of being high and mighty and explaining why my path is better than theirs, I instead choose to show compassion and offer condolences.

    May your son rest in peace wherever his final resting place may be.

    Many blessings,

    April 6, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
  7. Dennis

    This is every parent's worst fear; burying your own child. I probably don't agree with Rick Warren on much politically but really, so what? My condolences for a terrible loss.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
    • JB

      Thank you for your respectful and humane comment. Wish I saw more of this on here. You don't have to agree with anybody in a situation like this. Just be kind and remember that somebody died!

      April 6, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
  8. Prinzy010

    Sorry for your loss.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
  9. Doped Up Amerika

    Meds and prayer didn't work? No way!

    April 6, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
    • qazoo

      Yeah, either did society. To concern with gay marriage, abortion and religion. And less we forget birth certificates as well.

      Yeah, we sure have our priorities in order here in America. But we sure cab throw that mental illness label around for every action and behavior. And after awhile even the psych industry doesn't understand mental illness, three to busy creating labels as their new meal ticket.

      On the whole the Warren's are your typical American family who are just as clueless as most, and even like most would prefer to hide from it.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
  10. Carole

    You get stupid comments from bored, stupid ignorant people. They have nothing else to do plus they are mentally ill.
    There is nothing worse than being mentally ill and suffering the anguish that comes with mental illness.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
  11. Bob

    There are comments here about the son possibly being gay. I don't know if that is the case. On this note, I was listening to Catholic radio in San Diego recently. They were going on and on about loving people and accepting them. Then, they switched topics to gays and lesbians. The same talkers then launched into a sick dialogue about the sins of the gays and lesbians. Christians and Catholics sure have some wiered ideas about love and acceptance.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
  12. David G

    It pains me to hear of such tragic news but it pains me more to hear people criticizing the pastor and family for their faith, the way they brought up the son, their priorities, etc, an hour like this. I cannot imagine how insensitive some people can be. This is about human life, a man losing his son in such a painful way. Let's stop making judgments and all these bashings. Pain and sympathy transcend religion and beliefs.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • Patines

      Isn't that what they do from the pulpit, bashing/accusing the ones who are not members of their beliefs? On the other side of the page, isn't it what they preach, the love of god and to be ready and joyful for the encounter with the lord? If that's the case, his son just rushed to that encounter, why is he saying: "No words can express the anguished grief we feel right now." He's doing everything opposite to psalm 23. So David, my name is David too, I don't think people are being insensitive to Mr. Warren, they're just daying do not insult my inteligence with your hypocricy.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
  13. Katherine Ross

    I cannot believe some of the crude comments. This is a test from our Creator for the Warren family. My heart goes out to them. Unfortunately, their son who chose to end things this way will not be permitted into heaven. This is such a tragedy.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
    • snowboarder

      it is a sad day for their family and my heart goes out to them, but the whole "test" idea is absurd.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • LL

      This is a test, only a test....

      April 6, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
    • Norm

      Actually, your comment is rather crude. It wasn't a test from God, it was mental illness, which takes many lives each year. Won't be allowed into heaven? Beyond crude. No heaven, no hell, just a box in the ground or a small pile of ashes.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
    • John

      Alan Watts: What to tell children about God and The Universe

      There was never a time when the world began, because it goes round and round like a circle, and there is no place on a circle where it begins. Look at my watch, which tells the time; it goes round, and so the world repeats itself again and again. But just as the hour-hand of the watch goes up to twelve and down to six, so, too, there is day and night, waking and sleeping, living and dying, summer and winter. You can’t have any one of these without the other, because you wouldn’t be able to know what black is unless you had seen it side by side with white, or white unless side by side with black.
      In the same way, there are times when the world is, and times when it isn’t, for if the world went on and on without rest forever and ever, it would get horribly tired of itself. It comes and it goes. Now you see it; now you don’t. So because it doesn’t get tired of itself, it always comes back again after it disappears. It’s like your breath: it goes in and out, in and out, and if you try to hold it in all the time you feel terrible. It’s also like the game of hide-and-seek, because it’s always fun to find new ways of hiding, and to seek for someone who doesn’t always hide in the same place.
      God also likes to play hide-and-seek, but because there is nothing outside God, He has no one but himself to play with. But He gets over this difficulty by pretending that He is not Himself. This is His way of hiding from Himself. He pretends that He is you and I and all the people in the world, all the animals, all the plants, all the rocks, and all the stars. In this way He has strange and wonderful adventures, some of which are terrible and frightening. But these are just like bad dreams, for when He wakes up they will disappear.
      Now when God plays hide and pretends that He is you and I, He does it so well that it takes Him a long time to remember where and how He hid Himself. But that’s the whole fun of it-just what He wanted to do. He doesn’t want to find Himself out too quickly, for that would spoil the game. That is why it is so difficult for you and me to find out that we are God in disguise, pretending not to be Himself. But when the game has gone on long enough, all of us will wake up, stop pretending, and remember that we are all one single Self-the God who is all that there is and who lives for ever and ever.
      Of course, you must remember that God isn’t shaped like a person. People have skins and there is always something outside our skins. If there weren’t, we wouldn’t know the difference between what is inside and outside our bodies. But God has no skin and no shape because there isn’t any outside to Him. . . . The inside and the outside of God are the same. And though I have been talking about God as ‘He’ and not ’she,’ God isn’t a man or a woman. I didn’t say ‘it’ because we usually say ‘it’ for things that aren’t alive.
      God is the Self of the world, but you can’t see God for the same reason that, without a mirror, you can’t see your own eyes, and you certainly can’t bite your own teeth or look inside your head. Your self is that cleverly hidden because it is God hiding.
      You may ask why God sometimes hides in the form of horrible people, or pretends to be people who suffer great disease and pain. Remember, first, that He isn’t really doing this to anyone but Himself. Remember, too, that in almost all the stories you enjoy there have to be bad people as well as good people, for the thrill of the tale is to find out how the good people will get the better of the bad. It’s the same as when we play cards. At the beginning of the game we shuffle them all into a mess, which is like the bad things in the world, but the point of the game is to put the mess into good order, and the one who does it best is the winner. Then we shuffle the cards once more and play again, and so it goes with the world.

      ~Alan Watts

      April 6, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
    • snowboarder

      @john, weird post

      April 6, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
    • NotYourOrdinary

      Please cite your authority on which you can make such a statement regarding this young man's admittance to heaven. Shame on you.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
    • Patines

      And you want something more cruel than what you just said: "..he won't be admitted to heaven, because he committed a sin, he took his own life". Who forgot that the guy was crazy, you or Warren? I don't think your god has bad memory, he knows the beginning and the end of each one of his creation? May I call you Kathy, I think you'll have some thinking to do.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
  14. cw

    I cannot believe what some people are saying here. I lost someone to suicide 22 years ago, my grandmother. I have done lots of things and met lots of people who have also lost someone, friends, children, spouses, parents and mental illness is just as much an illness as cancer or something else. Sometimes treatments and intervention helps sometimes just like other illnesses no treatments can help and they loose the battle. No matter if you agree with Mr. Warren or not or anyones choices in life no one should have to bury their child for any reason and just like cancer no one should have to go through life with no hope as with a mental illness. You crazy ignorant insane rude people should grow up. Even though you have made so angry you should have to suffer such a loss either. We all breathe the same air and drink the same water and share the same planet. Kiss my ass.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
  15. Your comment is awaiting moderation.lol?? Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Who decided to run this story with comments?? Soulless money machine?? An Inc'd corpse?

    April 6, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
  16. Dee

    Wow, so many sad comments. It is up to God who decides who enters heaven. Shouldn't judge a person because his sin is different then yours.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
    • Perry Hansen

      Well said Dee. People love bashing Christianity.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
  17. Name*justice

    These people picket the funerals of dead Heroes that aren't dain bramaged but defending their right to be morons

    April 6, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
    • Perry Hansen

      Rick Warren's group does not picket the hero's...those people are psycho's...Rick Warren's group is not. Anytime someone loses a child is not a good thing, no matter who they are.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
    • vlaughlin

      You are incorrect. That is the Westboro Baptist Church, which these people have nothing to do with. Read the article before you post.


      April 6, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
    • Name*justice

      Goes around comes around. Karma bro!

      April 6, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
  18. rose


    April 6, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
    • Guilty

      No where. That was all made up by the church.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
    • Darrell

      The bible says its a sin to kill yourself. So if you sin by killing yourself you cant ask for forgiveness because your dead!

      April 6, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
    • Tim Brown

      Who cares what that stupid book says.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
    • JB

      Darrell, so let's assume that you committed a sin one minute before the Rapture occurs. Are you going to Hell then? Give me a break. What kind of God do you serve? My God has forgiven all of my past and future sins. Stop judging!

      April 6, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
    • Griffith

      1 Corinthians 3
      16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?
      17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
    • JJ


      April 6, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
  19. Steve

    To overlook the grief of this couple and their abundance of work to end the aids pandemic... because he disagrees with your politics is vile, hateful and disgusting. I pray (as I'm sure Rick and Kay would) that you NEVER experience the pain they are going through and that you never have small minded "one issue" haters attack you as many of you are attacking him. CNN PLEASE PULL DOWN THE BIGOTED COMMENTS OF THESE HATERS... or do they fit your agenda?

    April 6, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
    • JB

      I agree... CNN should pull the comments here. I've read many of them (and replied to many of them). Many of them are sick. This is not a matter of free speech. CNN's website is their property. They have the right to say what goes on while somebody is on their property. CNN: Terminate the comments on this story out of respect for this grieving family, thank you.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
  20. snowboarder

    our deepest regrets for the family and friends of someone so troubled. mental illness is very difficult.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:19 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.