Police: Son of Obama's spiritual adviser committed suicide
Isaac Hunter, the son of a spiritual adviser to President Barack Obama, died Tuesday in Florida, police say.
December 10th, 2013
11:03 PM ET

Police: Son of Obama's spiritual adviser committed suicide

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
[twitter-follow screen_name='BurkeCNN']

(CNN) - The son of a Florida megachurch pastor who is close to President Barack Obama has died, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to local police.

Isaac Hunter, 36, died Tuesday, according to Northland and Summit churches, two Orlando-area congregations with deep ties to his family.

Altamonte Springs Police Department spokesman Robert C. Pelton said officers responded to a call to check on the well-being of Hunter at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday. They found him dead, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Pelton said. The investigation is ongoing, and no foul play is suspected, he added.

Hunter is the son of Joel Hunter, an evangelical who has been a spiritual adviser to Obama since his 2008 presidential campaign. The president and the pastor speak nearly once a week, and Joel Hunter was an adviser to the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Isaac Hunter and his wife, Rhonda, were going through a divorce, according to Florida court records. Hunter resigned as senior pastor of Summit Church in 2012 after acknowledging a three-year affair with a member of the church staff.

"All of us are grieving for the Hunter family, and we will deeply miss Isaac. Words cannot express the sorrow we're feeling," said a statement by Vernon Rainwater, a pastor at Northland, which is based in Longwood, Florida.

"We love this family and are so grateful for the impact they have had on each of our lives. I have loved Isaac since he was a child, and I know this ... Isaac loved Jesus. And we are assured of his continuing relationship with Christ now in heaven."

With several campuses in central Florida, Northland is one of the largest evangelical churches in the state. Like his father, Isaac Hunter had been an evangelical megachurch pastor, a leader of Summit Church in Orlando.

"By now you may have heard that our former Senior Pastor, Isaac Hunter, died today," Pastor Jeff Kern wrote on Summit's website. "As I write these words, it is hard to express the deep sorrow we as a staff team are feeling for this tragic loss.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Rhonda, their three children and their extended family. We love them and it is our desire to support them in any way we can during this difficult time," Kern continued.

"As we look back on Isaac’s ministry here at Summit, we are profoundly grateful for the impact he had in all of our lives. We know that Isaac is deeply loved by Jesus, even in a time of brokenness ...," he wrote.

Cameron Strang, the founder of an Orlando-based evangelical magazine, described Isaac Hunter as a friend and former pastor who had "some significant struggles."

"Isaac was my pastor for several years. He was an amazing teacher," Strang, founder of Relevant magazine, wrote on Facebook on Tuesday evening.

"Around this time last year, Isaac resigned his position at our church amid some very public scandals. He had a wife of 13 years and (three) young kids, and the time since then has been incredibly difficult for our church. His family lives around the corner from me, and I see them often," Strang continued.

"Isaac loved Jesus and was a talented and dedicated pastor for more than a decade. But he had some significant struggles. The unfathomable news today is devastating for many. Please pray for his family. Please pray for our church. Pray for his kids," Strang said.

Friends of the Hunter family also expressed condolences on Twitter on Tuesday night.

Joshua DuBois, former director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, wrote:

Kay Warren, the wife of megachurch pastor Rick Warren, who lost their son Matthew to suicide in April, wrote:

CNN's Eric Marrapodi and John Couwels contributed to this report.

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Christianity • Church • Death • evangelicals

soundoff (335 Responses)
  1. Bob Khane

    What we would most like to know is what killed the man so young. Suicide ? Yes it matters if they are spiritual advisors to the president.

    December 11, 2013 at 7:40 am |
  2. steve c

    what a beautifully painted story by CNN. No mention of suicide, at all!

    December 11, 2013 at 7:26 am |
    • lol??

      Suicide is a handy tool for some gubmints. Ever heard of Arkanside??

      December 11, 2013 at 7:34 am |
      • robs

        what is arkanside

        January 5, 2014 at 5:53 am |
  3. larry

    I thought Obama's spiritual adviser was hair ball.

    December 11, 2013 at 6:57 am |
  4. BO

    Not a good sign.

    December 11, 2013 at 6:53 am |
  5. Reality # 2

    "Summit megachurch founder Isaac Hunter found dead in apparent suicide

    December 10, 2013|By Jeff Kunerth, Orlando Sentinel

    Isaac Hunter, 36, resigned on Nov. 26, 2012, from the megachurch he founded after he admitted to other Summit pastors that he had engaged in an affair with a staff member. His wife of 13 years, Rhonda Hunter, subsequently filed a domestic-violence pet-ition against Hunter, describing him as unstable, erratic and suicidal."


    December 11, 2013 at 5:33 am |
    • lol??

      Beasties think they are in charge of marriage. Usurpation at its most delusional. The wife bought it.

      December 11, 2013 at 7:11 am |
    • lol??

      Gen 12:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

      December 11, 2013 at 7:15 am |
      • Reality # 2

        Many OT, NT and koran thu-mpers are actually thu-mping the rules and codes of the ancients like King Hammurabi and the Egyptians who wrote the Book of the Dead and who did NOT need revelations from angels or mountain voices to develop needed rules of conduct for us h-o-minids.

        "Hail to thee, great God, Lord of the Two Truths. I have come unto thee, my Lord, that thou mayest bring me to see thy beauty. I know thee, I know thy name, I know the names of the 42 Gods who are with thee in this broad hall of the Two Truths . . . Behold, I am come unto thee. I have brought thee truth; I have done away with sin for thee. I have not sinned against anyone. I have not mistreated people. I have not done evil instead of righteousness . . .

        I have not reviled the God.
        I have not laid violent hands on an orphan.
        I have not done what the God abominates . . .
        I have not killed; I have not turned anyone over to a killer.
        I have not caused anyone's suffering . . .
        I have not copulated (illicitly); I have not been unchaste.
        I have not increased nor diminished the measure, I have not diminished the palm; I have not encroached upon the fields.
        I have not added to the balance weights; I have not tempered with the plumb bob of the balance.
        I have not taken milk from a child's mouth; I have not driven small cattle from their herbage...
        I have not stopped (the flow of) water in its seasons; I have not built a dam against flowing water.
        I have not quenched a fire in its time . . .
        I have not kept cattle away from the God's property.
        I have not blocked the God at his processions."

        "The Book of the Dead was written circa 1800 BCE. 2 The Schofield Reference Bible estimates that the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt and the provision of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai occurred in 1491 BCE., some three centuries later. Many religious liberals, historians, and secularists have concluded that the Hebrew Scripture's Ten Commandments were based on this earlier docu-ment, rather than vice-versa."

        And then there is the New Torah for Modern Minds that concludes that Moses and Abraham did not exist. Got to hand to the Jewish scribes as they indeed wove some very good tales.

        December 11, 2013 at 7:53 am |
        • lol??

          Better think a little deeper since all of man came from Adam and he conversed with God. Nuthin' got passed down?? Your pretend destruction of the Christian faith means zilch.

          December 11, 2013 at 8:37 am |
        • Reality # 2

          Adam? Even Catholics don't believe in the biblical Adam. Now for the real Adam:

          As per National Geographic's Genographic project:

          " DNA studies suggest that all humans today descend from a group of African ancestors who about 60,000 years ago began a remarkable journey. Follow the journey from them to you as written in your genes”.

          "Adam" is the common male ancestor of every living man. He lived in Africa some 60,000 years ago, which means that all humans lived in Africa at least at that time.

          Unlike his Biblical namesake, this Adam was not the only man alive in his era. Rather, he is unique because his descendents are the only ones to survive.

          It is important to note that Adam does not literally represent the first human. He is the coalescence point of all the genetic diversity."

          For your $199 and a DNA swab:

          "Included in the markers we will test for is a subset that scientists have recently determined to be from our hominid cousins, Neanderthals and the newly discovered Denis vans, who split from our lineage around 500,000 years ago. As modern humans were first migrating out of Africa more than 60,000 years ago, Neanderthals and Denisovans were still alive and well in Eurasia. It seems that our ancestors met, leaving a small genetic trace of these ancient relatives in our DNA. With Geno 2.0, you will learn if you have any Neanderthal or Denisovan DNA in your genome."

          December 11, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
  6. Jose

    If only his "Affordable Healthcare" were actually affordable.

    December 11, 2013 at 4:16 am |
    • rp1588

      Well, the fat cat health insurance and drug companies have to be taken care of first. Repubs and Dems are pretty much unanimous on this.

      December 11, 2013 at 8:45 am |
  7. chicagoboyrn

    Suicide? Gay?

    December 11, 2013 at 4:05 am |
  8. Louis

    Death spares no mortal, all mortals will die some day, some by natural cause or other causes. Pain and suffering are real, the pain of loss of a loved one is real, everybody will go through this pain someday and a pastor also is human and goes through these emotions.

    What every mortal needs to know in their darkest hour is , there is hope and that hope comes from Jesus Christ.

    We say a prayer for all pastors and their families that are feeling discouraged, we pray that God will continue to strengthen them and be their source of hope.

    December 11, 2013 at 3:38 am |
  9. ou2

    2 parents lost their child, a wife her husband & 3 children,their father. hiding behind a keyboard always shows how truly ignorant & cruel some ppl can be. i suppose the world has to have ur ugliness & self-loathing to apperciate true beauty of the heart.to the hunter family, my sympathy.

    December 11, 2013 at 3:31 am |
    • Jose

      Not hiding. I'm right here.

      December 11, 2013 at 4:18 am |
  10. Matt

    I went to summit church and heard Isaac preach multiple times. He had a gift, but fallibility is intrinsic to the human experience. He had struggles and they unfortunatly overtook him. The words of truth that he spoke had a profound influence on my life and that is why I am sad for the entire situation. It has been a sad day for me and I don't think it is appropriate to make this into a some quasi politically/religiously motivated rhetoric. This situation is decanting and healing is what is needed for those left in the wake of a tragedy. I don't think it is appropriate for a wise crack either. The lack of meaningful, truthful respectful inquiry in this world has lead is to build walls and barriers among each other that has the propensity to alienate from the harsh darkness of a world that is crying out for love. An example of it has occurred on this comment section. I am even more sad at those who have made fun of a human's death when they have no rationale basis to do so.

    December 11, 2013 at 3:16 am |
  11. Ross

    Peace out, beotch.

    December 11, 2013 at 3:11 am |
  12. DestroyerOfEgos

    Oh? What's this? I thought I was about to read news. I must be on the wrong site.

    December 11, 2013 at 2:44 am |
  13. AsFather

    Just show you, that have a faith in a god will not always give you the strength to deal with life struggles. My feelings for the family loss as a father I can feel for them. We can't always find the answers to the out come of events, but as we live our lives, we can only seek peace in our self when we realize that we are beings that are left to resolve our own issues that come to us to face. There is no God or Jesus to bail us out of a slump, no matter how many Gods you want to believe in. Life is hard, get with it and see that we only have a short existing to live and make the best that life has to offer.

    December 11, 2013 at 1:29 am |
    • El Kabong

      Well put

      December 11, 2013 at 3:38 am |
  14. kellie

    So sad. May the family be comforted by God. RIP.

    December 11, 2013 at 1:25 am |
  15. jerry

    Doesn't suicide prohibit one from entering the pearly gates? Or is that just a made up rule?

    December 11, 2013 at 1:20 am |
    • bilbfit

      You must be thrilled by this! I mean as a leftist God hater, you surely hate the idea of your leftist idol hanging out with an Evangelical! This is a great day for you! Enjoy your evil hatred, because it won't last much longer.

      December 11, 2013 at 2:42 am |
      • Tealiban is antiAmerican

        Jesus was an anti-capitalist liberal yet Neocons and Talibaggers try to make liberalism sound like such a bad thing. Here is a definition for you...
        lib·er·al·ism noun \ˈli-b(ə-)rə-ˌli-zəm\
        : belief in the value of social and political change in order to achieve progress
        con·ser·va·tism noun \kən-ˈsər-və-ˌti-zəm\
        : dislike of change or new ideas

        'Nuff said.

        December 11, 2013 at 2:50 am |
        • bilbfit

          Conservatism: a political or theological orientation advocating the preservation of the best in society and opposing radical changes.

          Liberalism: a belief in the value of social and political change in order to achieve progress. *(often change for the sake of change whether right or wrong).


          December 11, 2013 at 3:00 am |
        • Tealiban is antiAmerican

          @bilbfit, you've left something out, go back and read it again.

          December 11, 2013 at 3:07 am |
        • stan

          liberalism = any and all change is good (so open minded that good sense falls out)
          conservatism = any and all change is bad (so closed minded that nothing new gets in)

          One is a roll of the die, and the other is clinging to the status quo. Both have their place.

          December 11, 2013 at 7:46 am |
      • nena

        just because he is a preacher, and the article mentions the word "evangelical" at some megachurch doesn't mean it is truly bible based or have any reflection on the president. megachurch pastors run these super churches like CEOs. what is wrong with a small traditional biblical church?

        December 11, 2013 at 4:20 am |
        • pourmonamiJC

          Bible based? Really? According to whow interpretation? Who's right? How can antone tell? Which of the 40 000 + denominations has the right interpretation? You may want to ponder and do some serious praying about the expression "Bible based". And while you're at it you may want to ask God the gift of objectivity.

          December 11, 2013 at 6:49 am |
        • pourmonamiJC

          Bible based? Really? According to whow interpretation? Who's right? How can anyone tell? Which of the 40 000 + denominations has the right interpretation? You may want to ponder and do some serious praying about the expression "Bible based". And while you're at it you may want to ask God the gift of objectivity.

          December 11, 2013 at 6:50 am |
      • cedar rapids

        Looks like you have enough hatred for everyone there bilbfit.

        December 11, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Tee

      No, that will not keep a person from Heaven, the thing that keeps a person from going is not accepting Christ as their personal savior.

      December 11, 2013 at 8:30 am |
  16. CausinAScene

    Who Gives A Lolly F&)*K..So this some one died...? will your headline or mine be greater or worse?

    December 11, 2013 at 1:09 am |
    • jarhead333

      No, but it is the media. If it was a Kardashian or another high profile person, it will end up here.

      December 11, 2013 at 1:14 am |
  17. mburau75


    Is the GOP wondering what a Christian is doing advising a "Muslim" Obama??

    Regardless, it is sad that this guy lost to addiction.

    December 11, 2013 at 12:58 am |
    • etiendelamothecassel

      Obamie is NOT mudslime you numb skull.

      December 11, 2013 at 1:21 am |
    • nelbert

      Congrats! You managed to be wrong on all accounts!

      December 11, 2013 at 2:25 am |
    • bilbfit

      I would guess that he's fixing him. Or at least trying.

      December 11, 2013 at 2:44 am |
    • Dover

      Soooo....someone who attends a Christian church for decades can now somehow be deemed a Muslim? Is there any doubt as to why you guys can't get in to the white house? Fearful, dishonest and petty. That is your party.

      December 11, 2013 at 3:01 am |
      • bilbfit

        Uh, the Republicans lead the last 48 years of the White House occupancy rate 28 to 20, and that is only if Obama manages to finish his last three years. Pick up a history book sometime!

        December 11, 2013 at 3:10 am |
    • Dave

      Rev. Jeramiah Wright had a white son?

      December 11, 2013 at 7:10 am |
      • lol??

        It's all so confusing with Clinton bein' the first black prez.

        December 11, 2013 at 7:20 am |
      • lol??

        "..............In 1998, Nobel laureate Toni Morrison called Clinton "the first Black president", saying, "Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald's-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas"................"

        Nobel?? HHHhhhmmmmmmm Those rich Vikings never did return the loot they acquired during the dark ages.

        December 11, 2013 at 7:27 am |
    • stan

      I'm sure many on the left are angered that Obama believes in God at all, if he really does. It is a bit odd how Obama spent 20 years listening to Jeremiah Wright at a 'black church' but once running for President goes and joins a 'white' mega-church. Also note that the article says that Obama receives 'spiritual guidance' once a week from this dead kids super preacher father. Is this guy some kind of modern day Rasputin? The poor 'progressives' must have headaches today thinking about this one.

      December 11, 2013 at 7:51 am |
      • cedar rapids

        so funny the number of people that insist on claiming those on the left dont believe in god, as if the right have somehow gotten sole claim on religion.

        December 11, 2013 at 9:29 am |
  18. Der Bippy Von Strudellhopper

    Someone tucked there dusty nuggets too hard and bit their lip . Not enough oxygen to the brain , and Whoosh ! Up to God they go ! Go can of beans and weenies campfire snacks back of the class der with you .

    December 11, 2013 at 12:35 am |
  19. Nogods

    "The difference between faith and insanity is that faith is the ability to hold firmly to a conclusion that is incompatible with the evidence... Whereas insanity is the ability to hold firmly to a conclusion that is incompatible with the evidence."

    William Harwood

    December 11, 2013 at 12:13 am |
    • Achmed Abinanijad

      "People who use quotes instead of their own original thoughts are numbskulls"

      Stephen Hawking

      December 11, 2013 at 2:06 am |
      • silvertop

        Ha, aren't you quoting too?

        December 11, 2013 at 2:17 am |
    • bilbfit

      Obviously Harwood fits the category of insanity. Quote us some Manson next.

      December 11, 2013 at 2:47 am |
  20. spazcat91

    It sad that a father lost their son before they died, but I feel this does not need to be news cast this is only on because this is indirectly related to Obama. If everyone got a story like this kid we wouldn't have room for main stream events such as Ukraine or Syria.

    December 10, 2013 at 11:36 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.