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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. Ricky

    Although I do not agree with anything that Mr. Warren preaches, I truly feel for him and his family. Some of the comments that are being posted are so horrible. Please save them for someone like Pat Robertson.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
  2. LLQ

    How much do you want to bet that the "mental illness" meant that he was actually gay and that his parents did not accept him for who he was, were trying to "cure" him and were unsuccessful. I blame the parents.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
    • inspiration

      I do too. The old guy is a fraudster of the first degree, scamming millions from the common folks.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
  3. Jesusistheonlyway

    Satan himself can be transformed into an angel of light. Repent for the Kingdom of God is near and only through JESUS and the CROSS can you enter.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
    • pepperperdido

      Brush up on your bible before giving advice. Satan is known as the "angel of light",2 Corinthians 11:14 . It's how he fools people like you.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
    • JR Ewing

      Spare us your religious nuttery.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
  4. snowboarder

    it is a tragedy for any parent to bury their children.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
    • grafixer

      Yes, it certainly is.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
    • mzh

      I think a huge number of kids are mentally depressed as they grow up being witnessed what the society or more precisely their single parents do in terms of enjoying this earthly life... another thing is a huge number of young folks turning to an atheist every year... I think its because of the teaching of faith which contradicts itself... like they see an old man standing in front of the Church (black, white, Spanish and so on) extending hands and imagining is this old man is God... and part of the faith is to believe in worshipping death, dead human and so on...

      I ask honestly to them to go and study The Quran and follow the path... but please do not point to the wrong doing ppl in the name of Islam... but know it by urself... as I have experienced in my life that lots of folks grown up in different denominations and then in years study of The Quran they have changed their way of life and getting the peace in life....

      Peace!!!

      April 6, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
  5. Robert

    My sympathy and support go out to the family suffering this terrible loss. I don't think this time is a time to debate or critisize,but to share your humanity. I have had serious depression for 30 years, and it is a weight that a a heavy burden. My beliefs have evolved to the point that, much like a woman has the right to chose to have an abortion,a person with serious mental illness should have the legal right to end their suffering.Would you accuse a person who had Cancer for 30 years that took their own life, of taking the "easy way out?" I have a high tolerance for physical pain. I drove myself home for the hospital with a compound fracture in my arm. I passed a kidney stone at work ,and finished the shift.I have some suicidal ideation, but it isn't really even much sadness anymore. It the feeling of watching the same bad movie over and over for 30 years. Sometimes you just wish the damn thing would end already. I don't feel suicidal now, but I appreciate the complexity of Mental illness, and wanted to share some of my insight to help others.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
    • james loudon

      really god didn't help

      April 6, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
    • james loudon

      more god lovers with a false message

      April 6, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
    • Robert

      I didn't mention God. I don't believe God answers prayers. What is the point of your comment, besides trolling?

      April 6, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
  6. EdwardPDX

    My heart bleeds for the family. Personal demons can be overwhelming and in this case overpowering. A peaceful journey is wished for him.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
    • inspiration

      The kid's "journey" is over. He's finished it.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
    • JB

      Your journey will be over soon too. Maybe tomorrow. What's your point?

      April 6, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
  7. grafixer

    Loss of a child is horrific. And, I'm sure we all feel empathy for this family's loss. I hope that his "mental illness" was truly an illness – rather than a lack of conformity to his parents' belief or way of life. I've known a few people commit suicide because they could not live the way their parents wanted them to. They were not of "that way"... in that they did not accept the narrow view – the limited life that their family taught. If they did not comply – they were "wrong" or "mentally ill". I've even known a couple of people whose parents thought they were "mentally ill" because they were gay. Also known some that didn't believe in the same "god" that their parents did... and were persecuted (much like their jesus was) because of that. Crucifying someone comes in many ways. And extremist Christians sometimes create this act – just in different ways... crucifying their children, their neighbors, their family members... anyone that doesn't believe and live as they say they should. Let's all put our positive thoughts (and prayers) that this young man has found peace. Sad that his family has lost him to death. Hoping that it was not because of their beliefs that he wanted to live beyond.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
  8. Liberated-open-mind

    Sad news, the despair must have been unimaginable. R.I.P

    April 6, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
  9. DInorah

    i refer to you haters as "Demons from Hell", what else could you be, you lack compassion, love and what it is to be human.... Those hateful comments will haunt you, best you learn to repent cause when you meet our Creature it's gonna be to late for you... Rick Warren my deepest sympathies to your family, may your son rest in peace.
    CNN REMOVE THE HATERS COMMENTS PLEASE!

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

      correction Creator

      April 6, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
  10. 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 7:42 pm |
    • snowboarder

      @john, that is a weird post based on nothing at all.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
    • JB

      Thanks for the exposition. But, wouldn't it have been easier to just express your condolences and then walk away? Geez.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
    • John

      And my deepest condolences to the Warren family. May they be blessed with unconditional love and light... 🙂

      April 6, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
  11. Phill

    God didn't help?

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

      You don't believe in God so why do you care? You will die someday too. So, go ahead and keep mocking the dead like a foolish ignorant person. Your time will come too.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
  12. mzh

    All thanks and praises be to The Lord Almighty... Indeed we belong to Him and indeed we are heading towards Him...

    My condolences for the family and I ask The Almighty to give patience to the family for their loss...

    Peace be upon all of you...

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

      BS

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

      Thanks Phill...

      Every single soul will taste death... its just matter of time... every soul is given the lifetime before coming to this earth... and whose time would come when is not known to anyone except The One Created us...

      April 6, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
  13. Eastender

    I'm so sorry for the parents and what they're going through. My only comment on the article is they say he suffered mental illness since birth. How does one know that a newborn is suffering from mental illness. Even a 2 month old, a 6 month old, or a 1 year old. IMHO, I feel that's stretching it a bit. When did the symptoms really start, and how was it handled. It seems they tried a lot of things (meds, etc)...but if it was that bad, he should have been hospitalized. Just my opinion.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
  14. judy

    Christ said, beleive in Me and you shall be saved. Faith alone in Christ alone. Mental illness comes in many forms.That dear young man and his mental illness was paid for in full at the cross. God loves the mentally ill. God is love. Do your best impression of a human and have just simple compassion for the family. And be thankful we havent tasted such a horiffic heartache. This really isn't the place for such hatred. And remember we reap what we so.

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

      Perfectly put!! I wish we had more people like you in this world.....

      April 6, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
    • JAVO

      Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah...What sheep.....Careful of that CLIFF your being led off.!

      April 6, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
  15. bribarian

    The thought of living amongst the l1btards is too much for some.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
  16. Joe

    Psychiatric treatments are too overrated when it comes to treating depression. It can be a double edge sword for some. They always blame it on depression when the treatments fail and not the treatment. Most medications have major side effects and messes with healthy body functions. One of the many side effects (it should be rename to "other effects" than "side effects") is suicidal thoughts, very ironic, isn't it ?

    April 6, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
    • snowboarder

      the human brain is a complicated machine. if it were especially simple to treat we wouldn't be having this conversation.

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

      exactly, this is why its dangerous to prescribe "one size fits all" medication

      April 6, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
    • JB

      People don't get how tough mental illness is. You don't get it unless you've dealt with it yourself. As someone who personally has to deal with mental illness every day, I would not wish it on even my worst enemy. Not even on some of these sick b@st@rd posters on here either. It's hell on earth.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
  17. Chad

    so sorry Rick..
    2 Corinthians 1:4

    April 6, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
    • JB

      Thank you for the kind comment, Chad.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
  18. Bocepheous

    Atheist are generally hateful and disgusting people.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
    • inspiration

      Religious people are generally just dumb.

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

      Didn't realize you dislike newborn babies so much.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Wow, you posted after I did...did I sound hateful to you? I don't believe this man is in heaven nor do I believe he is in hell. I do believe this is a horribly tragic thing and that regardless of belief or disbelief or any of those other dividing factors, this family deserves compassion right now. People who commit suicide are quite often mentally ill, mental illness does not pick one group over the other. He's now star dust....that's how I see it but I will not disrespect their right to hold on to their belief at this point regardless of my opinion of it.

      Now if that sounds hateful to you, then I think you need a dictionary.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
    • omron

      Love they neighbor, judge not lest ye be judged. Think about what that ways about you.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
  19. Alicia

    My prayers go to the Warren family and to Matthew whom I know will be fairly judged by God.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
  20. Rich

    Maybe they should have prayed harder.

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

      Rick prayed harder, that is how you pay your respects to the family.... What HELL, hole did you crawl out of ?.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:05 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.