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Robert Morris, pastor of pro-Israel megachurch in Dallas, resigns after allegations he sexually abused 12-year old girl

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DALLAS, TEXAS — Robert Morris, one of the highest profile megachurch pastors in the United States, and one of the country’s most outspokenly pro-Israel pastors, resigned on Tuesday after allegations surfaced that he sexually abused a 12-year-old girl, and continued abusing her until she was 16 years old. 

The Board of Elders of Gateway Church – with nine campuses and some 100,000 weekend attendees – issued a statement Tuesday confirming that Morris, 62, has resigned as the church’s senior pastor.

The story is making big headlines here in Dallas, throughout Texas, and across the country, and sending shockwaves among Christians who have loved his teaching and have deeply appreciated his ministry over the years. 

Morris, who founded Gateway, is not disputing the allegations. 

“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,” Morris admitted to the Christian Post on Saturday, after the allegations became public. 

“It was kissing and petting and not intercourse, but it was wrong,” Morris added. 

“This behavior happened on several occasions over the next few years.”

The Associated Press reported that Morris’ accuser is named Cindy Clemishire. 

Clemishire told The Dallas Morning News in an interview published on Saturday that “she met Morris in 1981, when he was a traveling preacher and began preaching at her family’s church in Oklahoma. She said Morris and his wife and young son became close to her family. She said he was staying at her house in 1982 when he asked her to come to his room. He told her to lay on his bed and then began touching her inappropriately, said Clemishire, now 54.”

“She said the abuse continued for about the next four-and-a-half years. The Associated Press typically does not name people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Clemishire has done,” the AP noted in its article.

“I was 12 years old,” Clemishire told the Christian Post on Saturday.

“I was a little girl,” Clemishire said. “A very innocent little girl. And he was brought into our home.”

She said she and her parents trusted Morris, who “preached at the church that my dad helped start.”

“It went on for many years,” Clemishire added. “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.”

Gateway’s elders stated that they have hired a lawyer to fully investigate the allegations.

Morris is widely known for his pro-Israel Biblical stance and teachings and for financially giving to Israeli Christian and Messianic ministries.

As of Tuesday evening, Morris’ name and bio had been removed from the church’s website. 

Here is the elders’ statement in full: 

“Today, June 18, the Board of Elders of Gateway Church accepted the resignation of Robert Morris, the senior pastor,” the church explained in a statement.

“In addition, the Board has retained the law firm of Haynes & Boone, LLP, to conduct an independent, thorough, and professional review of the report of past abuse to ensure we have a complete understanding of the events from 1982-1987.”

“Regretfully, prior to Friday, June 14, the elders did not have all the facts of the inappropriate relationship between Morris and the victim, including her age at the time and the length of the abuse,” the statement continued.

“The elders' prior understanding was that Morris's extramarital relationship, which he had discussed many times throughout his ministry, was with ‘a young lady’ and not abuse of a 12-year-old child.”

“Even though it occurred many years before Gateway was established, as leaders of the church, we regret that we did not have the information that we now have,” the elders noted. 

“We are heartbroken and appalled by what has come to light over the past few days, and we express our deep sympathy to the victim and her family. For the sake of the victim, we are thankful this situation has been exposed. We know many have been affected by this, we understand that you are hurting, and we are very sorry. It is our prayer that, in time, healing for all those affected can occur.”

Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.

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