Pastor of Southlake’s Gateway Church accused of molesting 12-year-old girl in 1980s

Robert Morris, the founder and senior pastor of Gateway Church in Southlake, has been accused of sexually abusing a woman for four years, starting when she was 12-years-old, the religious watchdog blog Wartburg Watch reported.

Morris, a spiritual advisor to Donald Trump and who leads one of the largest churches in the country, is accused of abusing the woman multiple times in the 1980s, The Christian Post reported Saturday. She said the abuse happened in Oklahoma and Texas from 1982 to 1987, when Morris was in his 20s. The woman is now in her 50s.

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 acknowledged in a sermon in 2014 that he was “sexually immoral” when he was a teenager.

“We would go out and meet girls and I would end up being immoral in just one night,” Morris said in the sermon. “There was a curse in my life where immorality became easy for me.”

In a statement from the non-denominational megachurch this week — screenshots of which have been circulating on social media — Morris said that he was “involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with a young lady in a home where I was staying.”

Some screenshots of the statement shared on social media include directions not to “proactively” release the statement to media or the public.

“This statement is to empower you with a response if someone inquires, not as something to proactively send out to people.”

Morris said the contact he had with the underage girl was wrong but did not involve intercourse.

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

The Star-Telegram made multiple calls and left messages Sunday but was unable to reach a pastor or spokesperson with the Southlake campus of the church, which has around 100,000 members in Texas and the U.S.

Morris did not immediately respond to a Star-Telegram email requesting comment.

In the statement released by Gateway, the church said Morris has “been open and forthright about a moral failure he had over 35 years ago” and that “there have been no other moral failures.”

Morris said in the statement that “the situation” was uncovered in 1987 and that “it was confessed and repented of.”

“I submitted myself to the elders of Shady Grove Church and the young lady’s father,” Morris said, referring to the then-16-year-old girl’s father. “They asked me to step out of ministry and receive counseling and freedom ministry. Since that time, I have walked in purity and accountability in this area.”

In the statement, Morris said he returned to ministry in 1989 “with the full blessing of the elders and her father.”

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.

Clemishire told a blog writer with the Wartburg Watch that she met Morris at a youth revival in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1981, according to the post.

“He would often stay at her home and sometimes bring his wife, Debbie, and their little boy, Josh,” the blog read. “Robert and Debbie Morris quickly became family friends, and Cindy viewed them as safe and friendly. Their families would often go on trips with each other.”

It was when Morris was staying in their house that he abused Celmishire, according to The Wartburg Watch.

The statement from Gateway Church church said leaders knew about the alleged abuse and that Morris has “placed accountability measures and people in his life” since.