Gateway Church elders, Robert Morris’ son take leave of absence amid abuse investigation

Pastor Robert Morris speaks at Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, June 2, 2018.
Pastor Robert Morris speaks at Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, June 2, 2018. | Screengrab: Gateway Church

Three members of the Board of Elders of Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, including the son of founder Robert Morris, have voluntarily taken a temporary leave of absence. The decision comes as part of an ongoing independent investigation into child sex abuse accusations against Morris.

The law firm Haynes and Boone was appointed by Gateway Church to ensure an impartial investigation, and their initial recommendation was for any elder with potential conflicts of interest, particularly those related to events between 2005–2007, to step down temporarily, the Board of Elders said in a statement.

As a result, three current elders who were on the board during this critical timeframe but not part of the church staff — Kevin Grove, Steve Dulin and Gayland Lawshe —have taken leaves of absence. These elders have said they were unaware of the incidents in question.

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Pastor James Morris, Gateway’s newest elder and son of Robert Morris, also agreed to a temporary leave. Although he did not serve as an elder during the critical period, his familial relationship with Robert Morris warranted a leave of absence to maintain the investigation’s integrity.

The affected elders will still participate in their roles as staff members at Gateway Church, contributing to its mission and community services, said the Board of Elders.

The congregation has been asked to keep the leadership and the ongoing process in their prayers.

Robert Morris admitted to “inappropriate sexual behavior with a young lady” following allegations that he sexually abused Cindy Clemishire over multiple years, starting when she was 12.

Clemishire first alleged to The Wartburg Watch that Morris began sexually abusing her on Dec. 25, 1982, and continued for four-and-a-half years. She confirmed those details with The Christian Post. She stressed the severity of the abuse, which included inappropriate touching and penetration.

Two days after Clemishire, now 54, confronted Morris in 2005, he accused her of attempting to blackmail him, then asked her to name her price after she demanded he pay for what he had done to her as a child. Clemishire ultimately said she wanted Morris to pay $2 million in restitution.

Morris, who never paid off Clemishire, resigned from Gateway Church on June 18.

Clemishire, who said she has been grappling with the psychological impact of the abuse for decades, revealed in selected emails shared with The Christian Post how she first reached out to Morris in 2005 about the abuse.

Ethan Fisher, senior pastor of Gateway Church, who is also the son-in-law of Morris, revealed last Sunday that his family faced a “nightmare week” following the revelation of allegations from Clemishire.

After Morris resigned, Fisher said he was also removed as the apostolic and overseeing elder of Gateway Church Houston.

“Elaine and I, we’re processing it, obviously, as family. Elaine is a daughter, and I’ve done my best to be there for her. Me, as a son-in-law, we're processing the pain in real-time in the same way I know many of you are,” Fisher told his congregants.

Gateway Church attracts around 100,000 worshipers weekly across its nine campuses.

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