Son of anti-gay mega pastor commits suicide

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Rick Warren

The troubled son of popular, anti-gay evangelical Pastor Rick Warren killed himself at his southern California home.

Matthew Warren, 27, struggled with mental illness, deep depression and suicidal thoughts throughout his life, Warren’s mega church said yesterday in a statement, after his body was found Friday night at his Mission Viejo home.

"Despite the best health care available, this was an illness that was never fully controlled and the emotional pain resulted in his decision to take his life," Saddleback Valley Community Church said in a statement.

Allison O'Neal, a supervising deputy coroner for Orange County, declined to release the cause and manner of death pending an but several media outlets reported that the younger Warren had shot himself with a gun.

Rick Warren is the author of the multimillion-selling book “The Purpose Driven Life.” In 2008, President-elect Barack Obama sparked outrage when he invited the notoriously homophobic Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration.

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.

Matthew Warren was the youngest of their three children.

As Saddleback grew over the years, it 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.

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

In a statement to his congregation, Warren said his son had been treated by America's best doctors, had received counseling and medication and been the recipient of numerous prayers from others, his father said.

"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."