WFAA: Megachurch pastor admits past ‘inappropriate’ behavior with ‘young lady’ after accusation of molesting 12-year-old

Dallas-area megachurch pastor Robert Morris admitted to “inappropriate sexual behavior with a young lady” in the 1980s after a woman accused him of molesting her when she was 12 years old, according to a statement obtained by CNN affiliate WFAA.

The woman, Cindy Clemishire, told WFAA the abuse started on Christmas Day in 1982 and continued until 1987, when she told her parents. The Wartburg Watch, a church watchdog blog, first reported her account Friday.

Morris, a senior pastor at Gateway Church and a member of then-candidate Donald Trump’s Evangelical Executive Advisory Board during the 2016 campaign, did not mention the name or age of the girl in his statement but said the inappropriate behavior lasted several years.

“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. It was kissing and petting and not intercourse, but it was wrong. This behavior happened on several occasions over the next few years,” the pastor said in his statement.

Morris’ behavior was “brought to light” in 1987 while he was a pastor at Shady Grove Church in Grand Prairie, which has since become one of Gateway Church’s 11 locations, WFAA reported.

“In March of 1987, this situation was brought to light, and it was confessed and repented of. 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,” Morris said in his statement, adding he and his wife met with the survivor and her family in 1989.

“I asked their forgiveness, and they graciously forgave me,” he said.

Clemishire told WFAA that though her family forgave him, they never supported Morris returning to the ministry.

“I think leaders can get caught up and think it’s our responsibility to protect God and it’s not. Our responsibility is to protect the people,” she added. “God is bigger than all of that.”

CNN has sought comment from, Morris and Gateway Church, as well as Clemishire and her attorney.

In a statement to WFAA, Gateway Church said Morris underwent a two-year “restoration process” after a “moral failure” in his twenties.

“Pastor Robert has been open and forthright about a moral failure he had over 35 years ago when he was in his twenties 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,” the church’s statement said.

“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 the 35-year-old matter, there have been no other moral failures.”

In 2016, Morris was part of Trump’s Evangelical Executive Advisory Board, the campaign announced in a news release at the time. Trump also held a roundtable at Gateway’s Dallas campus in 2020 and Morris led a prayer before the event.

Morris does not have a role with the 2024 campaign, Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung told CNN.

Morris’ son, James Morris, will take over senior pastor duties in 2025 with the elder Morris remaining a primary speaker on weekends, according to the church’s website.

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