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
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(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. John Hillman

    It is always a tragedy when a young person decides that they can no longer cope with life. My sympathies to the parents who were already dealing with extreme stress. It might have been the "straw that broke the camel's back".

    Interesting to note the "advisor" was violating the precepts of the CHURCH he represented. (cheating on his WIFE with an associate). Says something MORE about who Obama uses as "consultants".

    January 5, 2014 at 5:51 am |
    • suesista

      I thought the father was the advisor and the son was the cheater. Have I got the story wrong? Whichever it is, pretty snarky observation you've made regarding the fitness of POTUS's evangelical consultant...one tragically dead and the other bereaved.

      January 6, 2014 at 1:29 am |
    • Cammie

      ...and somehow you think that President Obama "knew" of this affair and said..."Ok, please continue to consult me." (/eyeroll) We all fall short of the glory of God and if we had a hidden camera on you 24×7, I'm sure you have fallen short millions of times and in no way qualified to consult anyone on your job.

      Judge not lest ye be judged. ~MATTHEW 7:1-5

      January 6, 2014 at 9:55 pm |
  2. johnny


    January 2, 2014 at 10:50 pm |
    • Cammie


      January 6, 2014 at 9:56 pm |
  3. buzz

    If only he knew that getting out of that conservative red state would have saved his life. Red states have the highest suicide rate! They are so wrong minded and unrighteous spiritually, that they cause many suicides. The culture and it's mood can drive one to the brink!

    December 29, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • MrRogers

      So these are the conclusions you have come to, based on solid proof, detailed statistics, and thoughtful analysis?

      January 1, 2014 at 8:54 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        Yeah, pretty silly of Buzz. So why do you think that the suicide rate is higher in red states than in blue?

        January 1, 2014 at 8:57 pm |
        • l33ter

          Because Buzz says so.

          The notion is self-dismissing idiotica.

          January 4, 2014 at 1:30 pm |
    • Ddtgwt

      Buzz your ignorance is showing

      January 3, 2014 at 6:13 pm |
  4. Caihlyn

    Sad loss of human life...

    December 27, 2013 at 9:31 am |
  5. Janet

    You shall do no murder.
    We cannot dismiss that commandment.

    December 22, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
  6. Carrie

    He had bipolar disorder which seems to usually result in drugs, alcohol, violence, and affairs. The person's judgement becomes impaired. He needed lithium. Now it is too late. Please pray for his family.

    December 22, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
  7. Bob Ghosheh*

    It is important not to ever lose hope.
    Acknowledge God in all thy ways and he will guide your footsteps..
    My heart and my prayers are with all of those who have been affected by this in Norma's loss and tragedy.

    December 22, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
  8. scott bleyle

    Fella didn't feel guilty until after he was caught, prayers for his Wife.

    December 22, 2013 at 10:37 am |
  9. jimi

    there is something to be said for polygamy

    December 20, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
  10. ohmygod50!

    Yes, I'm sure he was depressed after his 3-yr affair was exposed. Man of God caught cheating.....while raking in millions.......yep..........but that is not real depression.......he was depressed that his gig was up.........he was a liar and a cheat. He was a dishonest man. He was beneath his congregation. He was disgusting.

    December 20, 2013 at 12:02 am |
  11. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    December 19, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
    • Prayer is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer takes people away from actually working on real solutions to their problems.
      Prayer prevents you from getting badly needed exercise. Prayer makes you fat.
      Prayer wears out your clothes prematurely.
      Prayer contributes to global warming through excess CO2 emissions.
      Prayer messes up your knees and your neck and your back.
      Prayer reveals how stupid you are to the world.
      Prayer makes you think doilies are exciting.
      Prayer makes you secretively flatulent and embarrassed about it.
      Prayer makes your kids avoid spending time with you.
      Prayer makes you frothy like Rick Santorum. Just google him to find out.
      Prayer makes you hoard cats.
      Prayer dulls your senses.
      Prayer makes you post really stupid stuff.
      Prayer has been shown to have no discernible effect towards what was prayed for.
      Prayer wastes time.

      December 19, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
      • Observing

        "Prayer makes you post really stupid stuff."

        How hard did you pray before making this post?

        December 19, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
    • ohmygod50!

      He cheated on his wife for 3 years. He was a sinner. He was a liar and a hypocrite. Perhaps if his religion had been more forgiving, he'd be alive. Religious people are the same as those who don't believe. They all make mistakes. Humans are imperfect.

      December 19, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
  12. sam stone

    Next, I love to hate Jews. All of them. Next, christards!

    December 19, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
  13. sam stone

    And, I love me in particular and Danny the Devil Burke second.

    December 19, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
  14. David

    It's ok, he's now playing with baby Jesus.

    December 19, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • sam stone

      My thoughts exactly. Find your 12 gauges and service your master in seconds!

      December 19, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
  15. oo oo

    DM Murdock, the no nothing scholar of self-published garbage, how do u cope with the loss of xtards thru suicide?

    December 19, 2013 at 9:34 am |
  16. oo oo

    We love dodo the Sam Bo! Sing and praise dodo!

    December 19, 2013 at 9:31 am |
  17. oo oo

    Sam Bo, where art thou, beloved? Pause your private celebrations and join dodo rejoicing in another dream come true, for u.

    December 19, 2013 at 9:28 am |
  18. oo oo

    12 gauge Sam Bo! Rejoice girlfriend! Them xtards is dropping like flies. Congrats, my love.

    December 19, 2013 at 9:22 am |
  19. Justice

    How sad. Depression is a deadly disease, one that csn lay dormant, like cancer, for years before it proves fatal. To laugh and mock those inflicted with sicknesses we barely understand is pure ignorance.

    Thoughts and prayers to his family. How tragic that they have to learn to go on without him among senseless people who dabble into people's personal life with such gusto. RIP

    December 18, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
  20. oo oo

    Yea! Rejoice Sam bo the punk. come on thammie the mouth. Ur prayers were answered dodo. U disgusting wretch. Y no celebration, virus?

    December 18, 2013 at 2:35 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.