North Texas

Robert Morris resigns as pastor of Gateway Church after child sexual abuse allegation

Morris had admitted to “inappropriate sexual behavior with a young lady,” and church elders say they weren’t told the age of the person involved

NBC Universal, Inc.

The pastor of a North Texas megachurch resigned Tuesday over allegations he sexually abused a 12-year-old girl in the 1980s.

Leadership at Southlake-based Gateway Church said in a statement to NBC News they accepted the resignation of senior pastor Robert Morris, who has led one of the largest evangelical churches for more than two decades.

Gateway Church said it’s hired law firm Haynes Boone to conduct an independent review after leaders there said they learned more details about what Morris had for years described as an “inappropriate relationship.”

"Haynes Boone can confirm the firm has been engaged to conduct an independent investigation," a spokesperson with the law firm told NBC 5.

Last week, Cindy Clemishire, now 54, revealed in a post on the church watchdog site The Wartburg Watch that she was 12 when Morris first sexually abused her in 1982. The alleged abuse continued for more than four years, Clemishire told NBC 5 on Monday.

“Part of the timing of right now is the discussion around these topics has been a lot more open over the last decade,” Clemishire said Monday. “And people are tired of seeing children hurt.”

“I think it’s very painful for people in the church to know that such a large name, a big leader, was responsible for it and has deceived people.”

Gateway Church said in a statement that it’s working to fully understand the events between 1982 and 1987.

“Regretfully, prior to 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 statement read.

“The elders’ prior understanding was that Morris’s extramarital relationship, which he had discussed many times throughout his ministry, was with a “young lady” and not an abuse of a 12-year-old child.”

Clemishire told NBC 5 in a statement Tuesday she is grateful Morris is no longer pastor but felt he should have been fired and not allowed to resign.

“I have been seeking this for years. My family and I have gone to leaders of very prominent churches and well-known ministries with this information, hoping that someone would hold him accountable and remove him from ministry leadership,” Clemishire said.

Attempts by NBC 5 to reach Morris for comment by phone and email have, so far, gone unanswered.

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