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Pastor of Megachurch Resigns After Confession of “Sexual Behavior” with 12-Year-Old

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A startling development occurred on Tuesday when Pastor Robert Morris of Dallas’ Gateway Church announced his resignation, two days after he had acknowledged engaging in “inappropriate sexual behavior with a young lady” 35 years prior. The information was made public after 54-year-old Cindy Clemishire claimed to USA TODAY that she was assaulted by Morris when she was 12 and he was 21. She said she was no longer scared to speak out.

Reports of Abuse

Morris’s charges were made public last Friday after Clemishire posted her account on the blog Wartburg Watch, which is devoted to uncovering sexual abuse in the church. Morris was a traveling preacher who was twenty years old when he and his wife, Debbie, met at a youth revival in Tulsa, Oklahoma, according to Clemishire’s account. She stated that the assault started on Christmas Eve of 1982 when Morris invited her to come see him in his room. She said that up until 1987, there had been kissing and petting but no sexual activity involved.

Morris’ Resignation and the Church’s Reaction

At first, Gateway Church stood by Morris, referring to his story of a “extramarital relationship” instead of admitting to child molestation. But when more information became out and the public’s anger increased, Morris’ resignation was declared by the church’s elder board. In a statement to the media, they conveyed their sorrow and profound sympathies for Clemishire and her family, expressing remorse for not knowing the whole truth sooner.

Morris’s Acknowledgment and Declaration

Morris, now 62, admitted the behavior in a statement to the local news station WFAA-TV. He said it was a moral mistake for which he had long since atoned. Since then, he claimed, he has lived in integrity and been accountable. Morris said that he had succumbed to the father of the young woman and the Shady Grove Church elders, who at the time had requested that he resign from his ministry and seek therapy.

Effect on the Church and Other

The approximately 100,000-member Gateway Church has been profoundly touched by these discoveries. Morris was well-known not just in his church but also around the world, as shown by the fact that his radio show was heard in more than 6,800 places and his television show was broadcast in more than 190 nations. He has 80,000 subscribers on his YouTube account, where he posts videos on God’s love and forgiveness.

Morris was a member of former President Donald Trump’s spiritual advisory board both during the 2016 campaign and the White House, thus the story has also made its way into the political community. According to a representative for Trump’s current campaign, Morris is not involved in the 2024 campaign and the former president was not aware of the accusations.

Clemishire’s Invitation to Accompany Other Victims

After decades of sharing her experience with prominent church and organization leaders, Clemishire made the decision to go public in hopes of inspiring other victims to come forward as well. She underlined that survivors must tell their stories in order to stop abuse from happening again and that it is crucial to avoid feeling ashamed. Clemishire, 54, says she could no longer remain silent and that she feels powerful and secure.

Statute of Limitations and Legal Implications

The lawyer for Clemishire, Boz Tchividjian, clarified that Morris is immune from prosecution under the 1980s statute of limitations. For sex offenses involving minors, Oklahoma’s statute of limitations is now in effect until the accuser becomes 45. But at the time of the abuse, this was not the situation. Tchividjian is a proponent of “look-back windows,” which would let states extend the statute of limitations so that surviving parties might bring legal action.

Clemishire and Tchividjian are investigating every possible course of action. In order to provide justice for victims of childhood sexual abuse, statute of limitations rules must be changed, as this case makes clear.

Pastor Robert Morris’ departure highlights a critical point for Gateway Church and the larger religious world by bringing attention to the widespread problem of sexual abuse in places of worship. Clemishire’s bravery in coming forward serves as a potent call to action for other survivors to tell their tales and seek justice, while the church and its community struggle with these disclosures.

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