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Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Summit megachurch founder Isaac Hunter found dead in apparent suicide

 Isaac Hunter, the founding pastor of the popular Summit Church in Orlando, resigned this week amid adultery scandal.

  Isaac Hunter, the founding pastor of the popular Summit Church…

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Summit megachurch founder Isaac Hunter found dead in apparent suicide 


Isaac Hunter, the troubled son of Northland Church Pastor Joel Hunter, has committed suicide, according to an email sent to members of his former church on Tuesday.

"We found out today that Isaac took his life," says the email sent by Darling Murray, a coordinator at Summit Church in Orlando. "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."

Officials of Northland, a Church Distributed, said they are still awaiting the police report on Isaac Hunter's death, but the church confirmed his death in a statement posted on the Northland 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," said the statement by Vernon Rainwater, a Northland pastor. "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."
Summit Church officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Isaac Hunter, 36, resigned on Nov. 26, 2012, from the megachurch he founded after he admitted to other Summit pastors that he had engaged in an affair with a staff member. His wife of 13 years, Rhonda Hunter, subsequently filed a domestic-violence petition against Hunter, describing him as unstable, erratic and suicidal.

In court documents, family members said they found an undated suicide note addressed to Summit Church leaders.

"I would very much like to be remembered as a person who loved his children, his parents, his brothers, and his best friends — well, while I could," the note said. "I fear I will love them better in my absence. As I have become what I never wished to be, a burden on those I love the most."

According to Orange County court documents, Isaac Hunter filed for divorce from Rhonda Hunter on Oct. 4, 2013.

Isaac, Joel Hunter's middle child, founded Summit Church in 2002 from a youth ministry at his father's church. Starting with 300 members, Summit became one of the fastest-growing churches in Central Florida with five locations and an estimated congregation of 5,000.

In her domestic-violence petition, Rhonda Hunter said her husband abused drugs and alcohol and had guns in the house. Isaac Hunter denied the allegations that he was abusive to his wife or a danger to his three children.

Pastor Isaac Hunter of Summit Church resigns amid adultery scandal


November 29, 2012|By Kate Santich, Orlando Sentinel
Isaac Hunter, the popular lead pastor at Summit Church in Orlando and the son of presidential spiritual advisor Joel Hunter, has resigned after admitting to an affair with a former church staffer.

The church, one of the fastest-growing in Central Florida, made the announcement on its blog Wednesday after mailing a letter to parishioners stating that Isaac Hunter's "moral failing has made it impossible for him to continue in ministry."

Isaac Hunter, 35, is a married father of three. He could not be reached for comment.

He founded Summit in 2002 with friends from his youth-ministry days in his father's Longwood megachurch, Northland, A Church Distributed. Three-hundred people attended Summit's first service, and it quickly outgrew its first home. It now has five locations and nearly 5,000 worshippers.

Many in both the church and community reacted with sadness to the news.

"It's heartbreaking," said Scott George, senior pastor at Pine Castle United Methodist Church and co-founder of the Community Food & Outreach Center in Orlando, one of many local nonprofit organizations where Summit members often volunteer. "He is a very gifted leader, a tremendous motivator. From the moment I heard about this, I've been in prayer for the entire church, the family, the community. The ripple effect of something like this is devastating."

Isaac's father, Joel Hunter, is a widely known evangelical pastor who became part of President Barack Obama's inaugural Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He did not respond to calls seeking his comments.

In the letter to Summit members, newly appointed lead pastor John Parker said Isaac Hunter had offered his resignation Monday and that it had been accepted. Parker urged church members to avoid gossip "as much as humanly possible" and said the church "is bigger than any one of us."
"On a personal note," Parker added, "I am hurting — for my friend, for the pain he has caused others and himself, for our staff, for the church, and even for myself. In midst of the hurt, I am so grateful for this community. God has done so much good in this place, and my great hope is that He will continue to have Summit Church be a place where lost and hurting people find hope and love."

Not everyone thought the resignation was necessary, though.
Angela Griner, the adult daughter of an evangelical minister and a member of Summit, said she hoped her generation could accept a talented leader who was nonetheless flawed. "We should stop denying our inability to be superhuman and simply be thankful for the gifts we can give one another in spite of our limitations," she said.

Fellow church member Dustin Watkins, 27, agreed.
"Isaac was the one who brought me to Christ in 2007," said Watkins, a self-described agnostic when he first went to Summit with his then-girlfriend's family. Hunter not only lunched with him more than a half-dozen times to discuss Watkins' doubts, but encouraged him to ask difficult questions.

Later, Hunter baptized him and performed the wedding ceremony for Watkins and his wife.

"He's human. I'm human. We all fall short of the glory of God," Watkins said. "Isaac has shown us so much grace that I would love to return the favor."