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Son of Pastor Rick Warren commits suicide, family says

By Dana Ford, CNN
updated 12:46 PM EDT, Sun April 7, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Matthew Warren, 27, died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, says an official
  • His body was found at his home in Mission Viejo, California, on Friday
  • He struggled from birth with mental illness, Rick Warren says
  • The elder Warren is a pioneer of the megachurch movement and a best-selling author

(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.

"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.

Matthew Warren's uncle, Tom Holladay, preached at the church Saturday night. He thanked members for coming and said that "we're facing it as a family."

"We're going to be real together about our hurts, and we're going to be real together about the thing that only He can give us: Hope in the face of anything and everything," Holladay said.

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.

"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.

CNN's Janet DiGiacomo and Eric Marrapodi contributed to this report.

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