Texas megachurch pastor resigns amid allegations he sexually abused a minor

A pastor at a Texas megachurch resigned Tuesday after a woman accused him of sexually abusing her several times between 1982 and 1987, when she was a minor. The resignation of Robert Morris, founder and senior pastor at Gateway Church, was accepted by the church’s board of elders. In a statement, the board said it is “heartbroken and appalled” by the allegations raised by Cindy Clemishire, who was 12 when the alleged abuse began in 1982. The church said it had hired a law firm to investigate the allegations.

“Regretfully, before Friday, June 14, the elders did not have all the facts of the inappropriate relationship between Morris and the victim, including her age at the time and the length of the abuse,” the board said, adding that the elders had known about an extramarital relationship but thought it was with a “young lady.”

Advertisement

“For the sake of the victim, we are thankful this situation has been exposed,” it added.

Morris’s name was removed from the church’s webpage listing its leadership late Monday, and his son James is now listed as the church’s senior leader.

In a statement, Clemishire, 54, said that while she is grateful that Morris is no longer a pastor at Gateway, she is disappointed that he was not terminated. She also disputed the board’s assertion that it had not been aware of her age at the time of the alleged abuse, saying she had told a church official and a board member details of the events in 2005 and 2007.

Share this article Share

“Gateway had the information but intentionally decided to embrace the false narrative Robert Morris wanted them to believe,” Clemishire said.

The board of elders didn’t reply to a request for comment Tuesday night. The law firm hired by the board to investigate the alleged abuses, Haynes and Boone, confirmed it “has been engaged to conduct an independent investigation.”

Advertisement

Morris didn’t reply to a request for comment, but he has told the Christian Post that in his early 20s, he was “involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with a young lady in a home I was staying.” Morris said there was “kissing and petting and not intercourse, but it was wrong.” Morris said he confessed and repented in 1987, “submitted myself to the Elders of Shady Grove Church and the young lady’s father” and was advised to take a break from the ministry. He returned in 1989, he said, with their blessing.

Clemishire’s allegations first emerged on the religious blog Wartburg Watch on Friday. Afterward, she also described the alleged abuse to the Dallas Morning News, saying that Morris was a close family friend and a traveling preacher when he stayed at her home in 1982. On Christmas night that year, Morris invited her to his room, she told the paper. After asking her to lie down on her back, he allegedly touched her inappropriately, and warned her against reporting the event. She said the abuse continued for 4½ years.

Morris would go on to found Gateway Church in the Dallas area in 2000, starting with 30 members and growing the ministry to an evangelistic church with about a dozen locations and more than 100,000 attending each weekend, according to the church’s website.

Advertisement

Morris was among a group of evangelical pastors and leaders who served on an unofficial faith advisory group for the Trump administration. The group, whose members fluctuated, would come to the White House for briefings and pose with Trump for photos. While their actual influence on policy wasn’t clear, the public images were powerful for conservative Christians who had felt unseen by previous presidents. Trump was among a roundtable of top White House officials in 2020 at Gateway, where he called Morris and another church leader “great people with a great reputation.”

Leave a Reply

Verified by MonsterInsights