Gateway Church pastor Robert Morris resigns amid allegations of child sexual abuse

SOUTHLAKE, Texas — Robert Morris, the Texas megachurch pastor who admitted he was involved in “inappropriate sexual behavior” with a 12-year-old girl, resigned Tuesday, according to a news release.

The Gateway Church Board of Elders said they accepted Morris’ resignation on Tuesday and hired the law firm Haynes and Boone to investigate the allegations, WFAA-TV reported.

The alleged victim is an Oklahoma woman now in her 50s, according to The Dallas Morning News. She said the alleged abuse by Morris, 62, the pastor at Gateway Church in Southlake, began on Christmas 1982 and continued until 1987, WFAA reported.

Morris has not been criminally charged, according to the Morning News. The victim said that Morris was already married with a child when their families met in 1981, the newspaper reported.

The alleged abuse ended when the victim told a friend what happened and then revealed it to her parents after she was encouraged by her friend to tell them, according to the television station.

Lawrence Swicegood, a spokesperson for the Fort Worth-area megachurch, said in a one-page news release that church 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 elders’ prior understanding was that Morris’ extramarital relationship, which he had discussed many times throughout his ministry, was with ‘a young lady’ and not abuse of a 12-year-old child,” Swicegood said in the release. “Even though it occurred many years before Gateway was established, as leaders of the church, we regret that we did not have the information that we now have.”

Media outlets do not generally identify alleged victims of sexual assault, but Cindy Clemishire’s name was used on The Wartburg Watch, a blog that tracks alleged sexual abuse in the church. The blog published her story on Friday.

Clemishire has allowed her name to be published, the Morning News reported.

Morris was a pastor of Shady Grove Church in Grand Prairie, Texas, when the alleged abuse happened. Shady Grove Church became affiliated with Gateway Church in 2013.

Morris was a traveling preacher and had been speaking at the victim’s church. She said he was “like family,” adding that he had been staying at her home, the Morning News reported.

In the release, Swicegood said that church elders are “heartbroken and appalled” by the allegations.

“We express our deep sympathy to the victim and her family,” the statement read. “For the sake of the victim, we are thankful this situation has been exposed. We know many have been affected by this, we understand that you are hurting, and we are very sorry.

“It is our prayer that, in time, healing for all those affected can occur.”

Morris founded Gateway Church in 2000 in Southlake, the Morning News reported. It now has nine campuses across the Dallas-Fort Worth area and offers online services. According to its website, the church draws approximately 100,000 attendees each weekend.

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