Megachurch Pastor Robert Morris Resigns After Admitting To ‘Inappropriate Sexual Behavior’: REPORT

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Megachurch pastor Robert Morris has resigned following his admission that he had engaged in “inappropriate sexual behavior with a young lady” in a statement Saturday to the Christian Post (CP), according to NBC News.

Morris was the pastor of the Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, according to the church’s website. Founded in 2000, the megachurch hosts 100,000 worshippers every weekend, the website reads.

In a statement to NBC News, the church Elders’ claimed their “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,” they told the outlet.

The church reportedly said they hired the law firm Haynes & Boone to review the alleged behaviour.

“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 told the CP in response to a request for comment.

“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,” he reportedly continued.

The CP cited The Wartburg Watch (TWW), a Christian blog that highlights instances of alleged religious misconduct, as the first to report the allegations made by Cindy Clemishire.

Clemishire was 12-years-old when the alleged abuse began on Christmas night 1982, she told TWW. The alleged behavior continued until 1987 when Clemishire was 16-years-old, TWW revealed. (RELATED: Megachurch Pastor, Author Steps Away From Ministry Citing Past ‘Sin’)

Clemishire was “appalled” by Morris’ description of her as “young lady,” she told the CP.

“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,” Clemishire alleged to the outlet. (RELATED: New Footage Reveals Horrifying Moments Leading To Shooting At Joel Osteen’s Megachurch)

“It went on for many years. 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 alleged to the CP.

Clemishire’s father threatened to call the police unless Morris withdrew from the ministry, according to TWW. Clemishire rebuked any notion that her father gave his blessing to Morris’ resumption of the role of minister to the CP.

“My father never ever gave his blessing on Robert returning to ministry! My father told him he’s lucky he didn’t kill him. I am mortified that he is telling the world my dad gave his blessing! Of course, we forgive because we are called to biblically forgive those who sin against us. But that does not mean he is supposed to go on without repercussions,” Clemishire told the outlet.

The Elders at Gateway Church also provided a statement to the CP.

“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,” the Elders at Gateway Church told the outlet.

Clemishire told WFAA she did not accept the Elders’ explanation.

“He didn’t come forward and confess. He was turned in,” she told the outlet. When someone is turned in, what are they sorry for? Are they sorry they got caught? Or are they truly repentant of what they did?”

Clemishire has hired attorney Boz Tchividjian, a man behind the litigation of numerous sex abuse cases, according to WFAA. Boz Tchividjian is reportedly the grandson of evangelist Billy Graham, the outlet noted. Tchividjian told WFAA that the statute of limitations with respect to Clemishire’s case is probably past, though they hope this case will encourage lawmakers to consider either extending or terminating such limits with respect to child victims.

This article was updated to include the most recent information.