Gateway Church pastor resigns after admitting to sexually abusing 12-year-old girl

Robert Morris, the founder and pastor of Southlake megachurch Gateway Church, has resigned after admitting he sexually abused a child in the 1980s, starting when the girl was 12, according to a news release.

The church’s board said in the news release that it accepted his resignation Tuesday afternoon and that church leaders did not previously know the details of Morris’ abuse of the girl. He told them he had an affair with a “young lady” but did not disclose that the affair was actually years of sexually abusing a child, according to the board’s statement.

Morris admitted to abusing the girl in the 1980s in a statement released to church leadership. The woman, now in her 50s, said the abuse began when she was 12 years old and continued until Morris was caught in 1987, when she was 16. Morris said in the statement that the abuse including kissing and touching but not intercourse.

Morris, a spiritual adviser to Donald Trump and the leader of one of the largest churches in the country, is accused of abusing the woman multiple times, The Christian Post reported Saturday. She said the abuse happened in Oklahoma and Texas from 1982 to 1987, when Morris was in his 20s.

A blog post from The Wartburg Watch identified the woman as Cindy Clemishire. The writer said Clemishire described the alleged abuse with specificity, down to the clothes she wore when the abuse took place.

Morris said in the statement released by Gateway Church that he was removed from ministry by Shady Grove Church and went to “freedom ministry.”

On its website, Gateway Church describes its freedom ministry as religious counseling to “undo the works of the devil in the lives of individuals,” including exorcism.

Morris said he spoke with church elders and Clemishire’s father, according to the statement. He returned to ministry with their “blessing” in 1989.

The resignation comes after elected leaders across Texas called for his resignation and said he should face consequences for his actions.

John Huffman, former mayor of Southlake, apparently took issue with Morris’ characterization of Clemishire as a “young lady” at that time.

“Years ago, he ruined a 12 year old girl’s life. She was not a young lady, but a child,” Huffman wrote on Tuesday morning. “He should have spent time in jail, but he didn’t. And to date, despite the news breaking days ago, leadership at Gateway Church has made no public statements, and Pastor Morris remains employed. This is unacceptable.”

Republican State Rep. Nate Schatzline said Morris has shared in the past about a “moral failing” and went to restoration ministry. While he believes in that ministry, Schatzline said the details about his actions change his view of Morris’ ability to lead a church.

“I wholeheartedly condemn these actions and any attempt to cover them up,” Schatzline wrote in the statement. “We’re praying for the woman who has come forward and everyone affected, and I am grieved that a church leader committed this abuse.”