Church: Pastor Rick Warren's son commits suicide

LAKE FOREST, Calif. (CBS) -- The Southern California church headed by popular evangelical Pastor Rick Warren says his 27-year-old son has committed suicide.

Warren's Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif., said in a statement to CBS News and other outlets Saturday that Matthew Warren had struggled with mental illness and deep depression.

"Despite the best healthcare available, this was an illness that was never fully controlled and the emotional pain resulted in his decision to take his life," the statement said.

"We ask everyone to join us in praying for the entire Warren family," the statement continued, "and that God's comfort and peace will be with them as they deal with this difficult situation."

Warren, the author of "The Purpose Driven Life," said in an email to church staff that he and his wife had enjoyed a fun Friday evening with their son. But Matthew Warren took his life Saturday after "a momentary wave of despair at his home."

Church spokeswoman Kristin Cole said he died Friday night.

Over the years, Matthew Warren had been treated by Americas best doctors, had received counseling and medication and been the recipient of numerous prayers from others, his father said.

Still, he struggled over the years.

"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?"' Warren recalled.

Despite that, he said, his son lived for another decade, during which he often reached out to help others.

"You who watched Matthew grow up knew he was an incredibly kind, gentle, and compassionate man," Warren wrote. "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."

The elder Warren founded Saddleback Church in 1980, according to his biography on the church website, and over the years watched it grow to 20,000 members. He and his wife, Kay, began by holding Bible studies for people who weren't regular churchgoers.

Warren is the author of numerous books and was named the top newsmaker of the year for 2009 by the Religion Newswriters Association, gaining attention with his invocation at President Barack Obama's inauguration that year.

In 2008, the church sponsored a presidential forum with Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain. Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney had been invited to a similar forum last fall, but Warren canceled it, saying the campaign had become too uncivil.

As Saddleback has grown over the years, it has spread out from its Lake Forest headquarters, 65 miles southeast of Los Angeles, adding several other campuses and ministries around Southern California.

The church says it now offers more than 200 community ministries and support groups for parents, families, children, couples, prisoners, addicts, and people living with HIV, depression and other illnesses.

© 2013 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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