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. yewa

    'mental illness' was prolly gay and backed into a corner by his dad

    April 6, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
    • inspiration

      If you are gay your prognosis is poor

      April 6, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
  2. Cliffintex

    I should be surprised that the progressives would find this an occasion to find joy – and the militant heterophobes also. I'm not. When any family loses a member it's sad.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
  3. #1__Christ__Fan

    His 'mental illness' was really Satan working his magik on the poor boy because his Father is an Agent of GOD,and Satan wanted the boy dead.But the boy knew this and to prevent his body from being used by the Devil,he had no other choice but to kill himself.

    Of course,he will be going to Hell,cause GOD hates suicide,but it is a valiant sacrifice.So for that,I thank him!

    April 6, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
    • Jeremy

      God hates suicide but does not hate sinners. According to your logic we are all going to hell because we all sin. Suicide is another form of sin nothing more. God is loving compassionate and forgiving. I hope you can learn to understand that.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
    • gessoart

      And your perverted interpretation of the Scriptures has him suffering horrible conscious pain throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity, an infinite punishment for a finite crime. The #1 friends of Lucifer paint this picture of God. Nothing could destroy the truth about God more than interpret the Bible the way you do.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
    • BabySitter

      @ Fan: that is short-sighted and wrong. Any sin can be forgiven, if we are sincerely sorry and tell God that we are.

      Suicide is the one sin that, after we do it, we cannot atone for (because dead people cannot pray or feel sorry or do anything: they're dead). So... God, by is own promise to hear all prayers and forgive sincere people, will resurrect ALL suicides and allow them a chance to be cured, and learn how repent.

      Death from suicide is a tragic end to mental ilness. Right-minded people do not condemn those who die from cancer or other illness. If someone does condemn the dead (or their survivors) who die from suicide, it likely means that those judging are not right-minded.

      If a church has taught you to condemn, you should pay more attention to God than what appears to be a false church...

      April 6, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
  4. Devon Spencer

    Matthew said he is going to heaven. The bible says suicide will send you to hell.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
    • inspiration

      I'd like to know what Neptune says about it.

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

      It actually doesn't say a thing about suicide.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
    • Devon Spencer

      Yeah it does sweet pea:

      1 Corinthians 3:16-17
      Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.


      April 6, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
    • Austin

      No it does not send you to hell. there is one unforgivable sin. suicide is a sin. all people go on sinning.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
    • Jeffision

      Have you checked in with Zeus or Horus?

      April 6, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
  5. Jeff

    RIP. Prayers are with you Pastor Rick and family.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • inspiration

      Nobody cares about prayers. That's so medieval!

      April 6, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
  6. Patrick

    People, Jesus can heal any malady! Cancer, heart conditions, tumors, mental illness...oh wait...

    April 6, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
  7. Mike M

    August 2011, a childhood friend out a shotgun in his mouth. March 2012, another childhood friend OD'd. Black Friday, my sister-in-law flew a Piper Cherokee into the side of a mountain.

    Seems more and more these days that not living is a suitable alternative to living with all the crap this country has been enduring and will continue to endure for some time the way it looks.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
    • inspiration

      It's the global warming. It hink people now realize that humanity is doomed.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
    • Anna

      I think I heard about your sister-in-law in the news. I'm sorry to hear what you've gone through. Suicide is not new and most people navigate the ups and downs of life without suicidal thoughts. For those who have them, though, it can be very hard to help them.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
  8. Walter

    I won't even read the comments, since I can imagine many of them will be inappropriate. Does every news story require the ability to comment on it?

    April 6, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
    • JB

      Walter, the majority of them are sick. It's true. I've read them. CNN should disable comments on this story.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
  9. KATHY/Minnesota

    RIP- GOD be with his family.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
    • Wally

      God just murdered his son! He could have done something about this but stood back. He even manufactured the poor boy with mental issues. Nice God.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
    • JB

      Wally, you're an @ss. Do you think that mental illness doesn't affect non-Christians too? It does.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
    • Anna

      Amen, Kathy.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
  10. chris sullivan

    Dear Pastor Rick,
    You have my deep and sincere apologies for your loss. I know your pain and have also suffered great loss. In 1993 my brother who had been suffering from mental illness and shot our Father in the chest 6 times murdering him. I had to bury a our father and go to the murder trial of my brother who received a 30 year sentence for the crime.
    But, I do believe this is where people fail what Peter said what we should do in Acts 10:34-35 when he said that we should not show favoritism. Before my brother murdered our father I was a working respected person among many in several different communities and peoples. When people found out that my brother committed patricide I went through a process of what I call "Character of Assassination through Association". Most people blamed me for not jumping between my brother and father to take take the bullet. I was blamed for not caring or visiting my father enough, not making my brother follow up on his medicine and mental health appointments, But in your position I am sure you will not be blamed or found in fault as I was. So when most people heard these false accusations about me, most everyone treated me as a fellow conspirator and I was as guilty as my brother. I was finished in any social circle I was ever in and alienated and ostracized for ever buy every family member and friends. That was in 1993, 20 years ago and my friends and family are all but a memory.
    Rick, I am very sorry for your loss. It will forever haunt you every day of your life and out of it will come much wisdom and prayer. But, are the people there because they care? are they really there because they know what you have gone through? Many will say they care but they can never understand until they have been through it. I am so glad that God is not a respector or persons like so many Christians are.
    Gods Blessing, Chris

    April 6, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
    • Anna

      Wow, Chris. I'm so sorry for what you suffered.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
  11. Peggy Coffey

    God's blessing on you and Kay. I know only too well the pain of mental illness and loss. Even tho your flesh grieves, you are strong in our Sovereign God who is in controll of ALL things. My prayer will be for continued strength, for he has run his race! Shalom...

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

    This is/was a mental illness problem period.
    This young man came from a very well off family who could thankfully afford to provide the very best help possible for their loving son and yet they still loose him.
    The human mind is very complicated indeed.
    My deepest sympathies to this family.
    Rick Warrens book saved my life, as well as many others.
    Gods speed.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
  13. Sydney

    Anyone who mocks these folks during their time of loss, do it because they hate God and what the Warrens stand for and are trying to make their hate know by saying hurtful things, and in doing so, show how low humans can sink when they hate those of faith !!!!!! God will balance the books someday and these haters will get what they rightly deserve for these crazy, selfish, hateful remarks. God will comfort these graet caring people even thru this terrible ordeal in spit of the awful remarks coming from "the haters". And inspiration could not keep up with Rick Warren for one day and is most likley a non working taker ?????

    April 6, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
    • inspiration

      God will do nothing, no worries. No such thing.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
    • Insipiration Jr

      My daddy always puts me down and tells me to go away when he's trolling.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
    • JB

      Karma will get you first. And then God. You see, even if there is no God (as you say there is), Karma still is alive and well. In general, how you treat others is how you will be treated. I've seen it over and over again and know that to be true. Is it scientific? Maybe not. Give it time and it will be REALITY for you.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
    • Dragon Slayer Lights Your Fire

      it's because this guys dad is nothing but filled with hate so what do you expect. You wouldn't be singing the same tune if it was Bin Laden's son now would you? You can't expect nice comments from people who loathe such filth. I feel sorry for the son for having a father like his. Must have been a hard life.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
  14. Christian Hell

    Why do Christians keep saying that atheists are rude and callous? I guess it is a lot more rude to judge a person by saying he went up to heaven or he went down to hell. Why do you Christians have to divide people with your heaven and hell? Why don't you Christians embrace the person just as a good human friend who had suffered mishaps in his life?
    So, How dare you say that atheists are rude?

    April 6, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
    • JB

      The sad part is that on here right now there are about as many rude Christians as there are rude atheists! Not everybody that labels themselves with a label is actually that label. Many Christians are not Christians at all, even if they insist they are.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
    • Gary

      Sometimes atheists are rude and many times it's a somewhat natural response to having to deal with the endless, ridiculous, overbearing religious BS.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
  15. exRed

    According to Pastor Warren's religion, his son is being tortured in hell right now. I wonder how he feels about that. What kind of god would allow a human being to suffer from mental illness from childhood and then send them to eternal torture when this person could no longer bear the pain of living? Only a god that was created by humans could do something like this.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
    • inspiration

      Luckily, most people nowadays just find this talk funny.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
    • Name*

      Thats Catholicism...

      April 6, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
    • LT

      Man you are one ignorant SOB...God give you free will in this world, that is it. God will judge you base on your heart and intention not the action that you did. If he kill himself because of an illness then he wont go to hell.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
    • Bob

      Wonder how pastor rick feels about that belief now....

      April 6, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
    • Gary

      Ye of little faith–the magic man in the sky works in mysterious ways.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
    • DavidW

      You show appalling ignorance. The Catholic Church (Warren is not Catholic) used to teach that those who committed suicide didn't go to heaven. I don't know what their current view is. Evangelicals believe that once you are saved by Christ, you are always saved, so that does not jive with the nasty comment you made.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
    • Bob

      Now wait, LT – isn't Manson sick in the head? So he's a shoe-in for heaven when his time comes?

      April 6, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
  16. inspiration

    Bernie Madoff's kids committed suicides too. Sometimes the shame is too much

    April 6, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
    • Insipiration Jr

      Don't beat me daddy!

      April 6, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
    • inspiration

      Go now and play with your gay friends!

      April 6, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • JB

      You have multiple personality disorder then?

      April 6, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
  17. ol' pink

    If I remember correctly, when people praised Scott Roeder for gunning down Dr. George Tiller, there was an outcry from the left denouncing these commentators as rude , hateful, insensitive ect. . Now that a pastor's son is dead, look who's singing the praises of this young man's death now.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
    • Anna

      I'm a leftist and I'm sickened by the evil comments. The people leaving them aren't left or right. They are just evil, soulless trolls.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:21 pm |
  18. TC

    I don't care who it is that committed suicide, or what his reason was. Committing suicide is tragic and sad, and some people, myself included, have thought about it even at a very young age (I thought about killing myself at 15). RIP to the young man.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
    • JB

      Thank you for the kind and caring comment. It is appreciated. More respect and compassion is needed on this board.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
  19. Tim

    There will those who say...." If He committed suicide then he is in hell". Most of these folks are Christians of warped doctrine. To those people i say, how dare you judge this young man or anyone else that has taken their own life. You are not God who is merciful beyond our feeble human understanding. If you have never been diagnosed with a mental illness you had better not judge or woe is you. I have suffered from mental illness for many years and have contemplated suicide many times. However God has always kept me in this life for His reasoning and His purpose. My time is not yet up as God continues to give me the strength to carry on. Matthews time was up or God would not allowed it to happen. He knew it would end that way for Matthew before the beginning of time. To Pastor Warren and his family I send my heartfelt sympathies at this terrible time of grief for them. Joy will come again for them in the morning. My tears and my prayers are with you.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
    • ..and for the good news;there is no Satan either !

      I feel bad for the parents and family.I do.But to honestly think that some sort of being has decided this young man's time has come is really twisted.How people can believe such tripe is beyond me.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
  20. Matthew C.

    "Lifetime of mental illness" = gay.

    Poor guy probably killed himself because of the shame and hatred that would be heaped upon him by his family and his church.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
    • inspiration

      I personally think he was just ashamed of his scamming, fraudulent family.

      April 6, 2013 at 7:57 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.