LAKE FOREST (CBSLA.com) — Pastor Rick and Kay Warren’s youngest son has committed suicide, Saddleback Valley Community Church announced Saturday.
The evangelical megachurch announced the death of 27-year-old Matthew Warren in a statement. He died Friday night in his Mission Viejo home.
Described as an “incredibly kind, gentle and compassionate young man,” the statement said Matthew suffered from mental illness that resulted in deep depression and suicidal thoughts.
“No words can express the anguished grief we feel right now … He struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression, and even suicidal thoughts,” Pastor Warren said in an emotional letter to his congregation.
“In spite of America’s best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided … Thank you for your love and prayers back. We love you back,” the pastor said.
On Saturday evening, church services were held at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest but the pastor was not expected to attend.
“We’re in deep pain for the family, just hurting for them,” said Sandra Maddox, who attends the church and is a friend of the Warren family. “He was loving and sweet, extremely intelligent and a bright young man.”
“I’ve walked the road he’s going down right now and it’s hard,” Ron Maddox said through tears. The Maddox family lost their daughter 10 years ago and said they understand how painful this must be for the pastor. “His belief in God isn’t going to change because something happened to his family.”
Orange County coroner’s officials plan to conduct an autopsy early next week. They said it’s routine for them to determine the official cause of death, even in cases of suicide.
Founded in 1980 by Pastor Warren, Saddleback Church serves a large Southern California community with several locations.
The pastor gave the inaugural invocation for President Obama in 2009. He also hosted discussions between the president and his challengers during the 2008 campaign. They had arranged to do it again in 2012 but Warren canceled, saying he wanted no part in the mudslinging between Obama and Mitt Romney.
The pastor is also known for authoring, “The Purpose Driven Life,” which has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide, according to the church’s website.