Megachurch pastor and ex-Trump faith adviser admits ‘inappropriate sexual behavior’ after molestation claim

His confession comes after Dallas pastor Dr Tony Evans, 74, announced he was leaving the Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship ‘due to sin’

Martha McHardy
Monday 17 June 2024 17:34 BST
Pastor Robert Morris applauds after President Donald Trump spoke at Gateway Church's Dallas campus on June 11, 2020
Pastor Robert Morris applauds after President Donald Trump spoke at Gateway Church's Dallas campus on June 11, 2020 (Alex Brandon/AP)

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Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Morris has admitted to having “inappropriate sexual behavior with a young lady” in the 1980s after a woman accused him of molesting her when she was 12 years old.

“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,” the pastor, a former member of Trump’s faith advisory board, said in his statement.

The statement did not mention the name or age of the girl. However, Cindy Clemishire told WFAA that Morris began abusing her on Christmas Day in 1982 when she was 12 years old. She said the abuse continued until 1987, when she told her parents.

In his statement, Morris said the family forgave him when the “situation” was “brought to light” in 1987, at which point he began receiving counseling.

“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 said in his statement, adding he and his wife met with the survivor and her family in 1989.

“I asked their forgiveness, and they graciously forgave me,” he said.

Clemishire told WFAA that though her family forgave him, they never supported Morris returning to the ministry.

“I think leaders can get caught up and think it’s our responsibility to protect God and it’s not. Our responsibility is to protect the people,” she added. “God is bigger than all of that.”

Morris is a senior pastor at Gateway Church, which now includes Shady Grove Church, where Morris was working at the time of the alleged abuse, as one of its 11 locations.

He was also previously a member of then-candidate Donald Trump’s Evangelical Executive Advisory Board during the 2016 campaign. It is unclear if Morris is contributing to Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign.

President Donald Trump flanked by Bishop Harry Jackson, right, and Pastor Robert Morris, hosts a roundtable with faith leaders, law enforcement officials, and small business owners at Gateway Church Dallas Campus in Dallas, Texas, on June 11, 2020
President Donald Trump flanked by Bishop Harry Jackson, right, and Pastor Robert Morris, hosts a roundtable with faith leaders, law enforcement officials, and small business owners at Gateway Church Dallas Campus in Dallas, Texas, on June 11, 2020 (AFP via Getty Images)

In a statement, Gateway Church confirmed the allegations, telling WFAA that Morris underwent a two-year “restoration process” after a “moral failure” in his 20s.

“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 church’s statement said.

“The two-year restoration process was closely administered by the Elders at Shady Grove Church and included him stepping out of the ministry during that period while receiving professional counseling and freedom ministry counseling,” the statement continued. “Since the resolution of the 35-year-old matter, there have been no other moral failures.”

Morris’ son, James Morris, is set to take over his senior pastor duties in 2025, according to the church’s website. The elder Morris will remain a primary speaker on weekends.

His confession comes after Dallas pastor Dr Tony Evans, 74, announced he was leaving the Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, which he founded in 1976.

Evans, who was the first Black person to earn a doctorate of theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, announced his resignation after he lost the mother of his four children to bile duct cancer in December 2019 and remarried a year later.

He said he had chosen to leave because he had fallen short of the “absolute supreme standard of truth” he aimed to live “due to sin.”

He did not specify what the “sin” entailed, but added: “While I have committed no crime, I did not use righteous judgement in my actions.”

“When we fall short of that standard due to sin, we are required to repent and restore our relationship with God. A number of years ago, I fell short of that standard. I am, therefore, required to apply the same Biblical standard of repentance and restoration to myself that I have applied to others,” he said.

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