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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. Dyslexic doG

    oh great, the FOX News trolls will be joining us for this discussion ...

    December 11, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Live4Him

      What's the difference between a Fox News troll and a CNN Blog troll? Nothing.

      December 11, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
      • Joey

        CNN trolls are slightly more intelligent than Fox trolls.

        December 11, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
  2. gladiatorgrl

    the spiritual advisor commits suicide? How ironic

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

      He found out he had to buy Obambam Care and what was in it.

      December 11, 2013 at 9:31 am |
      • Really VTguy?

        Politicizing a suicide death and slandering an effort to forge progress in human healthcare rights is such a noble and productive contribution to society, oh, unthinking one.

        December 11, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Justa Guy

      It was the spiritual advisors son. READ the story. Go to the Orlando Slantinal's website for the details.

      December 11, 2013 at 9:45 am |
  3. Ridge

    So... how'd he die?

    December 11, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • Løki

      autoerotische erstickung

      December 11, 2013 at 9:06 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Mynd you, møøse bites Kan be pretty nasti...

        December 11, 2013 at 9:12 am |
        • Løki

          Kanadier buchstabieren lustig

          December 11, 2013 at 9:16 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Norweger riechen wie nasse elch

          December 11, 2013 at 9:47 am |
        • Løki

          @Doc – Ich lachte laut

          December 11, 2013 at 10:22 am |
  4. Johnny 5

    Isnt Obama a Muslim?

    December 11, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • mindstorms`

      Johnny 5, you would be surprised how many people actually believe he is a Muslim. Of course many are the same people who believe he was not born in the United States and hates our country. I just finished a book about the Nazi movement in the United States before WWII. They had their supporters believing that President Roosevelt was really a Jew so you see spreading lies is just part of the political process of some groups.

      December 11, 2013 at 9:18 am |
  5. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    You're depressed? Pray. Still depressed? You're not praying hard enough. Depressed and suicidal now? Pray harder.

    *BANG* Oh dear, well he was very mentally ill, we will pray for him.

    Seems like a very effective process to me.

    December 11, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • Saraswati

      I just checked out their church and they appear to partner with seccular mental health projects so while there is no doubt a Christian influence, they are not a "pray only" organization.

      December 11, 2013 at 9:25 am |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        He was part of a 'mega-church'... there is nothing commendable about that

        December 11, 2013 at 9:37 am |
        • Dyslexic doG

          aint that the truth!

          December 11, 2013 at 9:42 am |
        • Saraswati

          I have no position on that, though I doubt I would support most actions of their church. My only caution is that we avoid assumptions on any position without checking it out. They appear to, at least in general, support modern mental health care. This may not apply on all issues, but probably on the majority of mental health issues.

          December 11, 2013 at 9:46 am |
        • Sol Invictus

          @Sara – LET is too evil today to agree with what you're saying... so I will in his stead...

          December 11, 2013 at 10:19 am |
        • Responding to the Pride

          LET and Dog–actually, its not the truth: Check out: http://hivaidsinitiative.com (sponsored by Rick Warren's church). Just one of many ministries American churches (mega or not) support. (Or are the two of you in favor of HIV?)

          December 11, 2013 at 11:40 am |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          Mentioning Rick Warren only reinforces my comment...

          December 11, 2013 at 11:49 am |
        • Responding to the Pride

          LET–so you don't care if Warren is doing something commendable–only that its Warren so you're going to hate what he does regardless? Haters gonna hate.

          December 11, 2013 at 11:57 am |
  6. Dan

    Spiritual adviser? That almost sounds like an oxymoron when the word Obama is in the sentence. Obama proudly opposes everything about the Bible and he openly despises God and even the notion of morals. I wonder what they find to talk about?

    December 11, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • magicpanties

      Too funny. Every time Obama speaks publicly, he closes with "God bless...".

      I wish he was an atheist, but he claims to believe in the same nonsense that you obviously subscribe to.
      However, just like Faux News, you won't let facts get in the way.

      December 11, 2013 at 8:53 am |
      • evervigilant

        Just because someone professes faith doesn't mean they have it. Politicians will pretend to believe anything if it gets them votes. Only he knows what his beliefs are or are not. I prefer to look at a person's deeds when I form an opinion and in that department I don't need Fox News or anyone else to help there.

        December 11, 2013 at 8:57 am |
      • Mark

        When Obama says God Bless, he is making fun since he want's to say Praise Allah.

        December 11, 2013 at 9:01 am |
      • bill

        magicpanties? did you mean rottin crotch.

        December 11, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • lol??

      Fully automatic personal protection devices for the DHS??

      December 11, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • lol??

      Semi-automatic personal protection devices for the Masters protectin' themselves from payin' protection money to Al and his mob pals, err feral Public Servants??

      December 11, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • cedar rapids

      'and he openly despises God and even the notion of morals.'

      hmm so expressing hatred and bearing false witness as the same time. Hope you dont claim to be a believer because if you are pack light, you wont need cold weather clothing.

      December 11, 2013 at 9:19 am |
      • lol??

        Big O sayz, "................And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them ..........................."

        When DHS goes full auto there IS a difference.

        December 11, 2013 at 10:22 am |
        • cedar rapids

          How about the full paragraph for context?

          'But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there's not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations. '

          And are you suggesting that his statement justifies the claim made by Dan?

          December 11, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
  7. Matthew

    I didn't realize Satan had a son.

    December 11, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      He doesn't. He has a daughter named Paris Hilton though...

      December 11, 2013 at 11:51 am |
  8. janer52

    CNN publishes stories like this so they can see the trolls come out. Good job.

    December 11, 2013 at 8:46 am |
  9. magicpanties

    How could god let this happen?
    Guess the megachurch didn't pray hard enough.

    Yes, that's cold-hearted, but the point is that with or without prayer, with or without some deity, nothing changes.
    So why invest time and money in ancient delusions?

    I do feel bad for his family and friends, but unfortunately they will talk to imaginary beings instead of doing something constructive.

    December 11, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • evervigilant

      Ah another militant Atheist preaching hard to convert people to their religion.

      Good luck getting converts rev panties.

      December 11, 2013 at 8:59 am |
      • Løki

        Dein haar muss riechen schrecklich ... mit dem kopf in den arsch die ganze zeit ...

        December 11, 2013 at 9:03 am |
        • evervigilant

          Sprechen sie English?

          December 11, 2013 at 9:16 am |
        • Løki

          sich verpissen

          December 11, 2013 at 9:40 am |
      • magicpanties

        To have a religion, one must believe [in some deity].
        Atheist means "lack of belief" [in any religion].
        Hence, there is no religion to convert to; there are just religions to abandon.
        But hey, nice try.

        December 11, 2013 at 9:15 am |
        • evervigilant

          Yeah I've heard that so many times.

          Still you are trying to convert others to believe as you do.
          Athiests have oganized groups, and even factions. They have a dogma hand out pamphets, they even collect membership dues in some cases. They speak of the evils of anyone who does not share their beliefs or if you prefer the term veiwpoint concerning religion.

          So walks like a duck and quacks like one I'd call it a duck. I know it makes some Atheists so mad and that's half the fun. Frankly I don't care what you believe or don't but why try so hard to convert others? Feel threatened?

          December 11, 2013 at 9:20 am |
        • Saraswati

          So if I, for the time being, believe in the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory and try to convince you with my evidence I am trying to convert you to my religion? If I think it will rain tomorrow and try to convince you as that another conversion attempt? If I don't believe in unicorns and try to convince you to keep an open mind they may not exist, is that religious conversion?

          December 11, 2013 at 9:35 am |
  10. evervigilant

    Funny I thought the good reverend Jerimiah Wright was the president's spiritual leader. Oh that's right he had to disown him because his racist views on whites were hurting the president's chances for election the first time. After almost 20 years of being a faithful follower the president claimed he was unaware of Wright's views. I just love revisionist history.

    December 11, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • exactly

      jeremiah wright was and still is his secret spiritual advisor...

      December 11, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • cedar rapids

      Wright is just a fire and brimstone preacher. That's his style.

      December 11, 2013 at 9:22 am |
      • evervigilant

        No he was much more than that. Even the slightest of efforts to research the man and see some of his more infamous quotes tells anyone with an objective mind that he is much more than a fire and brimstone preacher.

        December 11, 2013 at 9:50 am |
        • cedar rapids

          I grew up when Rev Ian Paisley was at his peak. I really don't see much difference between the two. All how god should condemn the nation for how it behaves and such, how the country should be cursed not blessed for its history and lack of morality and so on.

          December 11, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
  11. Elliott Carlin

    The headline would have led me to believe one of Jeremiah Wright's sons died. O wait, Obama distanced himself from him.
    "God Bless Planned Parenthood"-Barak Obama.
    Indeed.

    December 11, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • evervigilant

      I thought the same thing. Strange how nobody seems to remember Wright or his association with the president anymore.

      December 11, 2013 at 8:37 am |
  12. HotAirAce

    Seems like being the son of a mentally ill delusional father is a high risk position. Will the government be looking into this for possible causation? Should others in similar positions be held for observation and their own protection?

    December 11, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • Elliott Carlin

      and should they be eligible for Obamacare?

      December 11, 2013 at 8:31 am |
      • HotAirAce

        Coverage for pre-existing conditions is a good thing.

        December 11, 2013 at 8:37 am |
  13. ThinkFree

    Nothing fails like prayer, eh?

    December 11, 2013 at 8:17 am |
    • Løki

      Gebet ändert die Dinge ... aber in der Regel nicht zum Besseren ...

      December 11, 2013 at 9:09 am |
  14. idb

    So, what will be next, the far relative of an Obama voter died? This news has no value.

    December 11, 2013 at 8:15 am |
  15. darrell

    That's 19 words, Kay Warren, you liar.

    December 11, 2013 at 8:11 am |
  16. Saraswati

    It looks like there was a note. This is a very hard thing for a family, especially if they weren't aware of the depth of his struggles. In this case the mother I believe was, but for the children this will be even more earth shattering and alter their lives forever. I wish them all the best. And anyone else in this situation, please seek help. There are usually alternative solutions and people who want to help.

    December 11, 2013 at 8:05 am |
  17. jb61264

    seriously?!?!...the SON of Obama's "spiritual advisor" dies and this is news?!?!...not disrespect to the kids family or anything but who the frick cares outside of the kids family and friends...certainly not 99% of the people who read cnn.com

    December 11, 2013 at 8:04 am |
    • Saraswati

      I think the ti.tle of the article is just stupid. "Prominent Christian Pastor commits suicide. Family linked to Obama." Is really what they wanted but were too wimpy to write.

      December 11, 2013 at 8:15 am |
    • Elliott Carlin

      Let me break it down for you little flusher: we live in the 25 hour news cycle. News organizations have to put something on their websites. In this age, this qualifies as a news story. I remember when you'd watch the news at 6 and be done in 30 minutes. Now its all of the time. Thanks to technology.

      December 11, 2013 at 8:30 am |
      • lol??

        Think the whole wurld will see Jesus comin' back or will all the tech be long gone??

        December 11, 2013 at 8:52 am |
        • HotAirAce

          More likely no divine jesus therefore no comeback to watch.

          December 11, 2013 at 8:55 am |
        • cedar rapids

          'Think the whole wurld will see Jesus comin' back'

          No. No they won't

          December 11, 2013 at 9:32 am |
  18. Shame on CNN for hiding the truth.

    For HONEST reporting check out the Orlando Sentinel – which actually had the courage to call it what it was... a suicide. Contrary to what is reported here, this is what was reported regarding the email sent to former members: "We found out today that Isaac took his life," says the email sent by Darling Murray, a coordinator at Summit Church in Orlando.

    December 11, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • Saraswati

      You've got to wonder why they bother printing stories at all when they are such thin drivel that it sends us away from the site to find more quality information.

      December 11, 2013 at 8:18 am |
  19. Organic1

    He apparently dressed up as an eagle and was shot.

    December 11, 2013 at 7:54 am |
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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.