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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. john

    I am not a religious person......personally "God" seems more like a trained dog...bark at this ....wag at that...however that being said ...the man has lost a son....lighten up maggots.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
  2. cigarlover

    Its a sad thing of course to lose a loved one. But a religious extremist would never really worry, afterall this was the goal of his life to live foreever in the after life? NOT this life, after-life. Right?

    Christians are the biggest cult with loads of hypocrisy. As many have said, why the heck is Warren sad? As per the evangelical bul** the kid should be in gaven? right. Why the sadness? Doesn't make sense logically.
    Well logic is something that is completely missing in his 'business', so that wouldn't work.

    So why is he sad? Could it be because as humans we have other feelings and inherent love for life and for the life of the loved ones (which he calls god given? ). Those are pretty universal feelings across all the animal kingdom (including humans). Hence once can only conclude that he "knows" that this is the only life we mortals will ever have and any one with a bit of brain would want to live as long as possible on this beautiful earth, not waste their time in useless praying for gaven.

    Well enough of my rants. The enlightened would understand what I am saying. Those who want to live forever in gaven, just should wonder why the heck they are living on earth and wasting time praying, they could also be in gaven sooner.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
    • zach hamilton

      wow you are mean as ever. i dont agree that the pastor shoved anything down his son throat. where are you facts that being a christian is like a cult. you don

      April 6, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
    • mslch

      wrong time to spew bigotry dude. with you showing absolutely no decency and common sense, you are in no position and have no credibility to pass any judgement.

      what have you done for humanity lately? beside abusing freedom of stupidity, I mean speech?

      April 6, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
    • Erick Hendrickson

      I'm not a religious but you are a disgusting person with no respect to anyone. You opinion doesn't matter. He is a human being trying to help people with his faith and at this moment he deserves respect.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
    • cigarlover

      mslch, what part of truth hurt you so bad? And you did also exercise your freedom of "being stupid" errr speech.

      Where was bigotry in my comments? I merely returned the favor of logical bigotry coming from the hateful right in this country.

      Hate begets hate, it seem you folks can fling it but cant take it back.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
    • cigarlover

      Eric, yeah right. Non-religious. nuff said.
      Read my comment carefully, what I said about being human. U have any comprehension skills? If you did then your first reaction wouldn't be that I am not religious, cause most likely your are.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
    • zach hamilton

      i understand your believes but the religion itself does not cause people to kill them selves where your respect. where are your evidence that says the family faith cause people to kill them selves

      April 6, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
  3. Chedar

    You avoid the bad karma from coming no matter how you pray to GOD .

    April 6, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
  4. Inspiration Jr

    My dad makes me watch Star Trek episodes over and over again. And then trolls on the internet.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
    • John

      Inspiration
      "Yeah go atheist and go straight to hell."

      You know I was actually going to diss you until numb nuts said that.
      Inspiration from the shallow end of the gene pool? Or just more croaking.
      You be the judge. Newts at 11. Narf!

      April 6, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
  5. SayItAintSo

    Rick Warren and his Christian gay-hating crew have bullied gay sons and daughters. You reap what you sow.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
    • zach hamilton

      where are your respect and where are your facts do you have any evidence. the reap and you sow comment is wrong,. the man's son died

      April 6, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
    • cigarlover

      hey Zach, why should he be given respect, when he hates gays, liberals, atheists, other religions, non-por-lifers, etc. Why should he get respect. Arent there enough of "sheeps" like you to give respect and mourn?

      April 6, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • John

      So who died and made you relevant?

      April 6, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
    • zach hamilton

      what do you mean by calling me sheep. i knows the man son died and he probablt does hat many people but where do yo ucome off with saying that he doesnt deserve some respect his son died and that he is suffering where is your manners

      April 6, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
    • zach hamilton

      @john i am relevant i am new to this blog and @cigarld i dont know what you means by i calling me a sheep. does it give a right to bash a guy who has a a history of hating people he lost a chiid grow up and respect should be given to everybody irregardless of his or her believes

      April 6, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
    • John

      Sow what? May your lack of compassion and humility be truly revealed and may you be judged.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
  6. Steve Fielder

    Mentally ill, suicidal, and under medical care for years, yet Matthew Warren was still able to get a gun; and you can bet it was legally purchased.

    Not only should people being treated for mental illness be data-based so their names will come up during a gun-purchase background check, families must do a much better job of removing firearms from the possession of relatives who may harm themselves or others....

    April 6, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
    • Jane

      Yeah, a database of people seeking treatment for mental illness, that's a wonderful idea!!! Because it wouldn't lead to the further stigmatization of mental illness in this country, and it certainly wouldn't prevent people from seeking treatment, for fear of being added to "the list". Right...

      April 6, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
    • CurmudgeonTx

      Are you suggesting that someone who lost a child or a parent and went to grief couseling due to temporary depression should never be able to purchase a firearm?

      April 6, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
  7. T

    .......It is tough to live up to the perfection demanded by the son of a preacher. I know..............

    April 6, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • John

      Interesting comment, would that like having parents for teachers and never being smart enough?

      April 6, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • John

      Sorry Dyslexic....should read teachers for parents.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
  8. zach hamilton

    what kind of people are on this post. have some respect for the man. there is no facts to back up that RIck Warren has anything do with the poor man's son death. nothing my point is that many people should learn to respect other people. its does not matter that he is a pastor. what does matter with people. he just lost his son and its wrong to say he had something to with it. where are your manners.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • John

      Hate to break it to you Zack, unless you're suffering from multiple personalities, my comment wasn't directed at you.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • zach hamilton

      i know that i am speaking to all people who read this blog.

      April 6, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
  9. Sherry

    I can not get over how cruel and sick some of you 'so called humans' can be. Whether you like this family or not, there is no reason to get on here and voice your horrible, offending, sick thoughts! There are so many places you can go and release your sick aggressions other than a place where someone has just lost their child. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy! So just remember you reap what you sow and whether or not you want to believe it, you WILL answer for actions. Please try not to be selfish and hateful and do something constructive with yourselves. I can only imagine how miserable you people are with yourselves. What a shame

    April 6, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Judge not, lest you be....oh, ... wait...

      April 6, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • zach hamilton

      i agree with you 100% some people has too much time on their hands and like i said earlier some people dont have no respect and lost their manners

      April 6, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
    • Sherry

      Zachary I can't imagine some of theses people ever had manners.. I could never imagine being so ignorant and cruel to anyone whether I believed in God or I didn't...

      April 6, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
  10. bmullan

    If he had mental illlness how did he get a gun?

    April 6, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
    • Kiel

      It was probably his father's

      April 6, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
    • Ashley

      That's a question that will have to be answered real soon. I can't wait to hear what Rick says about that.

      April 6, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
  11. Geoff S

    My deepest sympathy to his family. I know first hand how awful this is as I lost a 20 yr old son to suicide. Your life is never the same. So sad,

    April 6, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
    • Peter

      I am sorry for your loss sir.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
  12. gblog

    JESUS , laughed at death and said " oh death where is your victory now ? " , he means what he says and

    says what he means. " oh death where is thy sting " , greater men have gone through the valley of death ,

    JOB and all of his suffering and the loss of his sons and daughters said " blessed be the name of the

    lord , naked i came , naked will i depart from this earth " , ALL WILL RISE ON THE RESURECTION

    DAY . JESUS SAID I AM the way the truth , i am the resurection. who can refute his

    words. who can answer god as he answered job out of the storm , who can boast

    as he did. THEN GOD MEANS WHAT HE SAYS.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
  13. Insipiration Jr

    More kind and loving posts from my dad soon.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
  14. morovia

    Out of respect for the dead (and the living), CNN should close this comments section.
    Also, if you're an archeologist from the year 2500, and you find this stuff, please throw it away.
    I assure you, humanity isn't this bad.

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

      Bravo, Morovia. Deepest condolences to the Matthew's entire family. We are so sorry for the loss, and for the pain you feel.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
    • Ccs2000

      Amen

      April 6, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • Anna

      It's insanity. I saw this article a few hours ago and checked back in to see the comments. I see the some of the same posters still trolling and making horrific remarks. That means they have been on this article for HOURS stirring up trouble. What does that tell us about who they are? No life, very unhappy and mentally ill themselves. It truly is not an example of our society today. Not at all.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • Austin

      demonic seance? Demonic oppression? mental attacks? circles of tormenting comments? demonic manifestation?

      April 6, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
  15. Sum_1

    RIP, tender soul.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
  16. STA STA

    Ecclesiastes 7:17

    Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time?

    April 6, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
  17. STA STA

    Not Helpful

    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 8:14 pm |
    • kristi

      suicide is not the unpardonable sin...there is only one.

      Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: Mark 3:28-29 (KJV)

      April 6, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
  18. kristi

    I'm sorry for your loss. His faith and your will get you through these times. And for the nay sayer's, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (say). Peace be with you Pastor Rick, family and church family.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
  19. Paul

    The vile comments about this man had his family show the level of filth and rot that is in the life and mind of the atheist. Most atheist are basically low level trash or hillbillies that have no regard or empathy with a father and mother who have lost a child. But then what do you expect from an atheist? They mimic ignorance and confusion.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
    • Insipiration Jr

      My dad is coming to get you.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
    • Devon Spencer

      The bible says you go to hell if you commit suicide.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
    • Dragon Slayer Lights Your Fire

      oh and your rush to "judgement" is any better? don't make me laugh

      April 6, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
  20. Insipiration Jr

    My dad is the best troll there is.

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

      Ignore this gay half-wit – he can't help it, he was born that way! 🙂

      April 6, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
    • Insipiration Jr

      I'm just like my dad. Like father like son.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
    • inspiration

      In-sipiration, wishful thinking! How are your hemorrhoids these days?

      April 6, 2013 at 8:23 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.