Robert Morris' accuser says Gateway Church knew of his crime, questions planned investigation

Pastor Robert Morris is founder of Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas.
Pastor Robert Morris is founder of Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas. | YouTube/ Pastor Robert Morris

Hours after Gateway Church officials in Texas announced the resignation of founder Robert Morris Tuesday and said it did not know all the facts after Cindy Clemishire accused him of sexually abusing her over multiple years in the 1980s beginning when she was 12, the 54-year-old grandmother claims the church is not being truthful and wants Morris' entire time at the megachurch to be scoured for more victims.

"The leadership at Gateway received actual notice of this crime in 2005 when I sent an email directly to Robert Morris' Gateway email address. Former Gateway elder, Tom Lane, received and responded to my email, acknowledging that the sexual abuse began on December 25, 1982, when I was 12 years old," Clemishire said in a statement released Tuesday night by her attorney Boz Tchividjian.

"Again in 2007, my then attorney Gentner Drummond (the current Attorney General of Oklahoma) sent a letter to Robert Morris with the hope that he would help reimburse me for the thousands of dollars I had expended in counseling as a result of this abuse. His attorney acknowledged the dates as well and then attempted to blame me for the abuse," she insisted. "At the very least, both the Gateway pastor and at least one elder had specific notice that I was sexually abused beginning when I was 12 years old. Gateway had the information but intentionally decided to embrace the false narrative Robert Morris wanted to believe."

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After Clemishire publicly alleged last weekend that Morris abused her as a preteen girl, Morris, 62, admitted to The Christian Post in an earlier statement that he had engaged in "inappropriate sexual behavior with a young lady" while he was a pastor at another church in his early 20s. But he did not name his accuser or disclose her age at the time the abuse began.

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

"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," Morris added.

Cindy Clemishire, 54.
Cindy Clemishire, 54. | Screenshot/CBS News

In their statement on Tuesday, elders at Gateway Church told CP that they believed Morris was fully transparent about his past and that he had been biblically restored to ministry after allegedly stepping away for a questionable period of two years. He reported in his 2011 book, Dream to Destiny, that he returned to ministry just one month after the "Lord orchestrated the circumstances for me to step out of ministry." At the time, Morris admitted he was struggling with pride. 

"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 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," the elders explained.

"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. 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," the elders added.

In the announcement of Morris' resignation, Gateway Church elders said they have 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."

The firm has expertise in more than 40 major legal practice areas, according to its website, including crisis management.

Clemishire highlighted the firm's expertise in helping their clients with "immediate and long-term strategies necessary to mitigate financial and reputational loss and stabilize in a crisis situation."

"This does not appear to be an independent investigation, and this deeply concerns me," she argued.

She also supported Tchividjian's call for Gateway Church to broaden the scope of the investigation into Morris' time leading the congregation.

"Just days ago the Gateway elders released a statement saying, 'Since the resolution of the 35-year-old matter, there have been no other moral failures.' Now that they have allegedly just learned that he was being untruthful, why limit the investigation to his conduct between 1982 -1987? Why not expand the investigation to his entire tenure at Gateway Church?" Tchividjian asked. "Also, why have they retained a law firm that specializes in 'crisis management?'"

Tchividjian told USA TODAY that he is exploring "all options" legally, but because the statute of limitations in place in the late 1980s for sexual abuse was "fairly short," Morris cannot face criminal or civil charges.

"This just demonstrates the absolute importance of statute of limitations reform, both in criminal and civil cases," Tchvidijian told the publication. "When somebody is traumatized as a child, for many it takes decades to process that trauma to even be ready to speak out or do something about it."

Clemishire said on Tuesday that she is grateful Morris has resigned, but she believes he has more victims.

"This is just the beginning. I wholeheartedly and sadly believe I am not the only victim. I encourage anyone who has been sexually victimized by a leader at Gateway Church to take the bold step forward and say something," she said.

"Now is the time. Please know that you will be supported and will not walk this journey alone. I hope and pray that the leadership at Gateway Church will echo this encouragement knowing that this can be an opportunity to find the truth while providing help and restitution to victims."

Contact: Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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