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Woman accuses popular megachurch pastor Robert Morris of molesting her as a child. He cops to 'moral failure.'
Photo by Willie J. Allen Jr. for the Washington Post

Woman accuses popular megachurch pastor Robert Morris of molesting her as a child. He cops to 'moral failure.'

Morris suggested in his admission that the victim was a 'young lady.' She indicated she was just 'an innocent little girl.'

A woman recently came forward accusing Robert Morris, the founding pastor of the popular Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, of molesting her as a child. Morris confirmed in a statement to various outlets that decades ago, he did indeed engage in "inappropriate sexual behavior with a young lady."

"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," Morris told the Post. "This behavior happened on several occasions over the next few years."

Cindy Clemishire, the woman in question, has contradicted Morris' characterization of events, telling the Christian Post that she had been no "young lady" at the time the molestation began.

"I was 12 years old. I was a little girl. A very innocent little girl. And he was brought into our home. He and his wife, Debbie, and their little boy, Josh, and trusted and preached at the church that my dad helped start and then began grooming all of us to do this, which took me decades to wrap my brain around as an adult," said Clemishire.

"It went on for many years," added the victim. "He says there was no sexual intercourse, but he did touch every part of my body and inserted his fingers into me, which I understand now is considered a form of rape by instrumentation. I was an innocent 12-year-old little girl who knew nothing about sexual behavior."

Clemishire initially shared the story of her alleged victimization by Morris with the Wartburg Watch, a watchdog blog that details incidents of abuse within various churches. Clemishire indicated she only realized the full extent of what had happened to her upon watching a description of predatory grooming on television.

Clemishire recalled that she and her family met Morris long before he had a television program and a radio show while at a youth revival in Tulsa. Morris was reportedly a 24-year-old traveling evangelist at the time, married to his current wife, Debbie. According to Clemishire, after Morris was invited to do a youth revival in her hometown, he began regularly preaching at her church on Sundays. Over time, he and his wife became family friends, whom she regarded as "safe and friendly."

'He would take her out in his car and attempt to have sexual intercourse.'

"All that changed for Cindy on 12/25/1982. Yes, Christmas night. The Morris family came to visit and spend some time there. Cindy sat in the back seat of the car with Robert. He asked her to visit him in his room that night," alleged the Wartburg Watch. "She shared a room with her sister. Cindy, an innocent twelve-year-old girl, movingly described what she was wearing. She was wearing pink pajamas with bloomer pants. She wore underwear underneath. She had a snap-up robe on."

Morris allegedly "told her to lie down on her back and touched her stomach. He told her to close her eyes. Then he touched her breasts and felt under her panties. He warned her: 'Never tell anyone about this because it will ruin everything.'"

The molestation apparently continued until March 1987.

"Morris wanted to make out and engage in heavy petting. He reportedly told Debbie that he was 'counseling' Cindy," the Wartburg Watch said, paraphrasing Clemishire's recollection of events. "Cindy wondered if Debbie was in denial about what was happening. Things changed when she turned sixteen. He would take her out in his car and attempt to have sexual intercourse. Once, he was fixing a vanity in his home and held up a screw and asked Cindy if she wanted to 'do this.' By this time, Morris was a pastor at Shady Grove Church, which would eventually become Gateway Church-Grand Prairie Campus."

Gateway Church has grown significantly, such that it now sees as many as 100,000 people in attendance each weekend.

When Clemishire's father found out about what was going on, he reportedly called the head pastor of Shady Grove Church to report Morris and demanded that unless the alleged pedophile abandoned the ministry, he would inform local law enforcement.

Morris apparently stepped down for two years.

Morris' 2011 book "From Dream to Destiny" suggests his momentary leave from the vocation was alternatively the result of an excess in pride.

In a 2014 sermon, the pastor referenced his bout of sexual immorality, noting that there "was a bit in my life toward immorality and I couldn't get free. Without Christ, I couldn't get free." However, he suggested this took place during his teenage years.

'I have walked in purity and accountability in this area.'

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

Morris, a father of three and now also a grandfather, said in a statement to the Christian Post, "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."

"In March of 1989, I stepped back into ministry with the full blessing of the elders and her father," Morris added in his statement. "In October of 1989, Debbie and I met with her and her family, and I asked their forgiveness, and they graciously forgave me."

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram highlighted alleged internal communications at Gateway asking not to "proactively" circulate a statement from the megachurch to the media or in public.

The statement from the "Elders of Gateway Church" says, "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."

According to the elders, "Since the resolution of this 35-year-old matter, there have been no other moral failures. Pastor Robert has walked in purity, and he has placed accountability measures and people in his life."

While the church characterized the matter as resolved, the Wartburg Watch claimed that Clemishire was poised to file a civil lawsuit in 2005, but was allegedly met with the suggestion from Morris' attorney that she had been at fault, having been "flirtatious." Clemishire asked for $50,000 and Morris' team allegedly agreed to $25,000 if she also agreed to sign a nondisclosure agreement, which she refused to do.

Clemishire has retained evangelist Billy Graham's grandson Boz Tchividjian as her attorney, reported WFAA-TV. While Tchividjian suspects that the statute of limitations for criminal or civil action has run out, he indicated they are considering their options.

"My hope and prayer is for all of this to be good," said Clemishire. "For the church, for God's glory, and for other victims to find freedom."

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Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon is a staff writer for Blaze News.
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