Former Orlando megachurch pastor Isaac Hunter has apparently committed suicide, according to an email sent to the church he started. The story was first reported by theOrlando Sentinel. Hunter, 36, started Summit Church in Orlando in 2002. Prior to that he had been a youth minister at his father’s church, Northland, A Church Distributed. His father, Joel Hunter, has pastored the Orlando megachurch since 1985.
The email from Isaac’s former church, Summit, stated:
“We found out today that Isaac took his life. We are obviously deeply deeply devastated and saddened beyond words by this news. The tears keep coming and coming as we mourn. We are praying for his family and this congregation as we walk through this together.”
Leaders from Isaac’s father’s church, Northland, are still awaiting the police report on Isaac Hunter’s death, but they did acknowledge his death in a statement posted on their website.
“By now you may have heard that Pastor Joel and Becky’s son Isaac Hunter died today. All of us are grieving for the Hunter family, and we will deeply miss Isaac. Words cannot express the sorrow we’re feeling. We love this family and are so grateful for the impact they have had on each of our lives. I have loved Isaac since he was a child, and I know this… Isaac loved Jesus. And we are assured of his continuing relationship with Christ now in heaven.”
Understandably, neither of the churches’ leaders were ready to comment to the media.
The circumstances surrounding Isaac Hunter’s resignation from ministry last fall were troubling and very difficult for the Hunter family and Summit Church. In November 2012, Hunter revealed to his leaders that he had been engaged in an affair with a fellow staff member. Soon after, his wife filed a domestic violence petition, describing him as “unstable, erratic and suicidal.” Statements in the petition also claimed that Hunter was suffering from alcohol abuse and drug abuse. The couple have three children together.
Hunter’s apparent suicide is not the only difficult suicide to strike a megachurch family this year. On April 5, 2013, Rick Warren’s son, Matthew, took his life. Matthew Warren, 27, was not a pastor, but was a Christian who suffered from severe depression. Rick’s wife, Kay, reached out to the Hunter family via twitter.
My heart is broken for the Joel Hunter family in the loss of their beloved Isaac. No words, just tears.
— Kay Warren (@KayWarren1) December 11, 2013
2012 was a difficult year for megachurch pastors in Orlando. Two other pastors were involved in affairs that ended their ministries.
Only a year after his resignation, it is sure to be a difficult Christmas season for the Hunter family. Our hearts go out to them.