Son of Prominent Anti-Gay Pastor Commits Suicide

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The Southern California church headed by popular evangelical Pastor Rick Warren said his 27-year-old son committed suicide on Saturday.

Warren’s Saddleback Valley Community Church near Los Angeles said in a statement that Matthew Warren had struggled with mental illness and deep depression.

"Matthew was an incredibly kind, gentle and compassionate young man whose sweet spirit was encouragement and comfort to many," the church’s statement said. "Unfortunately, he also suffered from mental illness resulting in deep depression and suicidal thoughts. 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."

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."

Over the years, Matthew Warren had been treated by America?s best doctors, medication, counselors and prayers for healing, Warren said.

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

Saddleback’s website says that about 20,000 people attend weekend services at the church.

In 2008, the church sponsored a presidential forum with Barack Obama and Republican 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.

EDGE adds: Barack Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to give the invocation at his first presidential inauguration in 2009 caused widespread criticism among LGBT organizations, gay activists and their allies. Just before the inauguration, 100 LGBT-supportive protesters marched outside Saddleback Church.

A few months after the inauguration, Warren appeared to be backtracking on his anti marriage-equality stand when he told CNN’s Larry King ""During the whole Proposition 8 thing, I never once went to a meeting, never once issued a statement, never-never once even gave an endorsement in the two years Prop 8 was going."

He relegated LGBT issues as "very low" on his list of national moral priorities and told King he was working with LGBT groups on issues "that we care about." Traditional marriage groups immediately lit into his remarks.

Then late last year, in the very same venue, this time presided over by King’s successor Piers Morgan, Warren appeared to backtrack. When asked if being gay was an inherent characteristic, he responded that just because one has feelings doesn’t mean one acts on them.

"Sometimes I get angry and I feel like punching a guy in the nose," he said "It doesn’t mean I act on it."

Earlier that same day, on CBS, he said he subscribed to biblical views on marriage. "I am not in favor of redefining marriage," he said. "It’s not illegal to have a gay relationship, so it’s not a big issue to me."Associated Press, EDGE