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Texas megachurch accepts senior pastor’s resignation after allegations of ‘inappropriate relationship’ with a minor

By Jillian Sykes, CNN

(CNN) — A Dallas-area megachurch accepted the resignation of senior pastor Robert Morris on Tuesday after allegations of a past inappropriate relationship with a 12-year-old surfaced last week.

The Board of Elders of Gateway Church said in a statement Tuesday that prior to June 14, they didn’t have all the facts of the abuse.

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

“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 said they were “heartbroken and appalled” and expressed sympathy to the victim and her family.

“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 said in a statement.

The woman, Cindy Clemishire, told WFAA the abuse started on Christmas Day in 1982 and continued until 1987, when she told her parents. The Wartburg Watch, a church watchdog blog, first reported her account Friday.

Clemishire has mixed feelings about the news of Morris’ resignation, she said in a statement released through her attorney.

“Though I am grateful that he is no longer a pastor at Gateway, I am disappointed that the Board of Elders allowed him to resign,” she said.

“He should have been terminated.”

Morris’ behavior was “brought to light” in 1987 while he was a pastor at Shady Grove Church in Grand Prairie, which has since become one of Gateway Church’s 11 locations, WFAA reported.

“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.”

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CNN’s Jamiel Lynch and Andy Rose contributed to this story.

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