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Texas Megachurch Pastor Confesses to 'Moral Failure' After Being Accused of Sexual Abuse in the 1980s

robert morris
Source: Facebook/PsRobertMorris

Morris, founding pastor of the Gateway megachurch, admitted to “inappropriate sexual behavior with a young lady” in the early 1980s.

Jun. 16 2024, Published 10:19 a.m. ET

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Robert Morris, the founding pastor of Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, one of the biggest megachurches in the country with an estimated weekly attendance of 100,000, has been accused of sexually abusing a woman when she was between the ages of 12 and 16, has learned.

Cindy Clemishire, now 54, told The Dallas Morning News that the abuse took place in Oklahoma and Texas between 1982 and 1987. She said she met Morris in 1981, when he was a 20-year-old traveling evangelist who began preaching at her family's church. At the time, he was married and had a young son, and their families became close friends.

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Clemishire claimed that Morris was staying at her home on Christmas Day 1982 when he told her to come to his room. "I just remember he just wanted to talk," she recalled. "And then he started touching my stomach and proceeded to touch my breast and went under my pants, and then told me I could never tell anyone, because it would ruin everything."

She said that the abuse began when she was 12 and continued for four and a half years. When she told her parents, her father allegedly called the head pastor at Shady Grove, the church where Morris worked, and demanded that he be removed from the ministry, prompting him to step away from the church for two years before returning in 1989.

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“When I was in my early twenties, I was involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with a young lady in a home where I was staying," Morris admitted in a statement to The Christian Post after the allegations became public. "It was kissing and petting and not intercourse, but it was wrong. This behavior happened on several occasions over the next few years."

“In March of 1987, this situation was brought to light, and it was confessed and repented of," he continued. "I submitted myself to the Elders of Shady Grove Church and the young lady’s father. They asked me to step out of ministry and receive counseling and freedom ministry, which I did. Since that time, I have walked in purity and accountability in this area."

"Two years later, in March of 1989, I stepped back into the ministry with the full blessing of the elders and her father. In October of 1989, Debbie and I met with her and her family, and I asked their forgiveness, and they graciously forgave me. This sin was dealt with correctly by confession and repentance, which I did in 1987 and 1989."

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"Pastor Robert has been open and forthright about a moral failure he had over 35 years ago when he was in his 20s and prior to him starting Gateway Church. He has shared publicly from the pulpit the proper Biblical steps he took in his lengthy restoration process," Gateway elders reportedly told church staff in an internal memo.

"The two-year restoration process was closely administered by the Elders at Shady Grove Church and included him stepping out of the ministry during that period while receiving professional counseling and freedom ministry counseling," the statement continued.

"Since the resolution of this 35-year-old matter, there have been no other moral failures. Pastor Robert has walked in purity, and he has placed accountability measures and people in his life. The matter has been properly disclosed to church leadership."

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Clemishire disputed Morris' claim that her father gave his blessing to return to the ministry. "Of course, we want to forgive, we’re called to forgive," she said. "But he’s never had anyone’s blessing in my family to be back in the ministry. We don’t believe anyone that’s done anything like this should be an overseer to anyone in any industry, but especially in the church."

“I don’t think that it’s repentant when someone calls a 12-year-old a young lady and tries to just dismiss what happened as just some heavy petting,” she added. “I don’t believe that’s repentance. There’s no child on earth that any person should ever do that to. It’s just unacceptable. There’s zero excuse."

Clemishire said she pursued a civil lawsuit against Morris in 2005, as the statute of limitations for criminal charges had passed, and asked for $50,000 to cover the cost of her counseling stemming from the abuse. In response, Morris' attorney allegedly claimed that she had been "flirtatious" and was "seeking out" his advances and offered her $25,000 to sign a non-disclosure agreement, which she refused.



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