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'I Was a Child': Robert Morris Accuser Shares Her Story, Faith Journey

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The woman who claims Pastor Robert Morris, founder of Gateway Church, molested her when she was just 12 years old in the 1980s, has received “an incredible amount of support” since sharing her story with the media.

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Cindy Clemishire, Morris’ accuser, rocked the Christian world when her claims went viral last month, with shock and awe continuing weeks after her story made its way into national headlines.

Clemishire recently told CBN News she has been on a journey to discover the truth and come to terms with the abuse she purportedly endured.

“I started out when I was in my 20s sharing with friends … not even fully grasping what my story was at that time, and really dug into counseling, and just focused on trying to understand what happened to me,” she said.

She continued, “I was probably about 35 when I really understood [the] depth and magnitude of what Robert really did — not just to me, but to my family with all the grooming, and then, of course, the sexual abuse and the emotional abuse.”

Watch Clemishire share her story:

Understanding the Alleged Abuse

Clemishire, 54, said it took until this time in her life to comprehend the alleged abuse fully. As time went on, she became more vocal, but experienced some internal hesitations.

“Like most believers, you don’t want to do anything that’s going to tarnish the name of God,” she said. “You don’t want to tarnish the church, you don’t want to hurt other believers, you don’t want to, you know, cause another person to not come to Jesus.”

Clemishire’s main goal was to prevent Morris from serving in church leadership, a place she felt he didn’t belong. Whenever Morris spoke at a church with which she or her family had an association, she, her sister, or her parents reportedly confronted leadership to tell them their story.

“I just wanted someone in leadership somewhere [to] take him out of the pulpit, because we did not feel as a family that that’s where he should be in leadership,” she said. “When you can’t even fill out a document honestly about working in your own church nursery, should you really be in the pulpit?”

But, according to Clemishire, “not once has any leadership stood up and said, ‘This isn’t biblical. You should not be in leadership.'” Despite purportedly being ignored, she recently decided to share her story more broadly with The Wartburg Watch blog, sparking a fallout that led Morris to resign from Gateway.

Clemishire said a retired pastor who had heard her story had encouraged her to speak out. She said she feels her decision to share was predicated, in part, on “God’s timing,” as she wouldn’t have been prepared earlier for the attention and scrutiny she has received due to the story going so viral.

Not a ‘Young Lady’

As CBN News previously reported, Morris, 62, who resigned from Gateway last month, offered an initial statement on the allegations against him in which he used the term “young lady.”

In that statement to The Christian Post, Morris described what he said was “inappropriate sexual behavior with a young lady” in a home he stayed in during his 20s. “It was kissing and petting and not intercourse, but it was wrong,” he said.

The preacher went on to state that the behavior happened on “several occasions” over a number of years. Morris said the situation was “brought to light” in 1987. He said he confessed, repented, sought counseling, and returned to ministry two years later with the support of the victim’s father.

“I submitted myself to the Elders of Shady Grove Church and the young lady’s father,” Morris said. “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.”

Clemishire has repeatedly spoken out against the use of “young lady” to describe what unfolded. She reiterated these comments in her interview with CBN News.

“It was a crime,” she said. “I was a little girl. … Of course, it makes me a little angry, but, at the same time, it’s just the whole deception of all of it.”

She alleges the abuse started when she was 12 and concluded when she was 16 years old.

“He told me the very first time, ‘You can’t tell anyone because it will ruin everything,'” she said. “And as a 12-year-old, I had no idea what that meant. And as I … got older, I still didn’t really know what it meant, because, when I told, I felt like it ruined everything in my life. It ruined everything in my family’s life.”

Holding on to Faith

Despite facing hardship, Clemishire said she never lost hope — or faith in the Lord. She credited her strong Christian upbringing with helping carry her through the tough times.

“My dad taught us about having a personal relationship with Jesus,” she said. “And, even though I have not been actively involved in any one particular church, I have attended church regularly at different times throughout my life.”

Clemishire continued, “But I have never stopped praying. I’ve never stopped reading my Bible. I mean, it truly has been about my relationship with Jesus. … I don’t know how anybody could get through any of this without that.”

Moving forward, Clemishire hopes to help support other victims and advocate to change the statute of limitations across the nation so that there’s no expiration when it comes to victims being able to obtain legal justice after facing abuse.

“I want to be active in any way I can with changing the laws to protect the victims and not the predators,” she said.

It’s important to note that Morris’s statement did not mention the name or age of whom he admitted to inappropriate sexual behavior. While he has remained silent since leaving Gateway, the church hired a law firm to conduct a thorough and independent inquiry to discover the truth.

The Elders’ Response

The Board of Elders at Gateway has consistently updated the church community after Morris’ resignation and asked for prayer for all parties, including Clamishire.

“Please be praying for those affected, including Cindy Clemishire, her family, the Morris family, Gateway members, staff, and others,” a June 21 statement read. “Pray that God will heal the brokenhearted, as He promises to do in Psalm 147:3. Be comforted by God’s promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us. Keep loving God and His people. Remember that God brings beauty from ashes. He loves Gateway Church and He will get us through. He is the God of redemption and restoration.”

There was confusion over the church’s initial response, though. At first, when the news broke, elders defended Morris, but once more details emerged, they issued a second statement stating they did not previously know the scope or details of the allegations against the preacher. Here is that statement:

“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 [the] abuse of a 12-year-old child. 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. For the sake of the victim, we are thankful this situation has been exposed. We know many have been affected by this, we understand that you are hurting, and we are very sorry. It is our prayer that, in time, healing for all those affected can occur.”

Since the announcement that law firm Haynes & Boone, LLP will lead the independent investigation, the elders noted that any elder with a “potential conflict of interest” had been urged to take a “temporary leave of absence from the Board of Elders.”

“A leave of absence in no way whatsoever assumes or implies that any Elder had any knowledge of the true facts related to this situation,” a June 28 statement read. “Three of our current Elders are impacted by the law firm’s recommendation.”

These elders have said they had no knowledge of the allegations Clemishire has shared. Additionally, Pastor James Morris, Robert Morris’ son, has taken a temporary leave from the Board of Elders so that a “truly independent and unbiased inquiry” can unfold. Read more here.

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About The Author

Billy Hallowell writes for CBN's He has been working in journalism and media for more than a decade. His writings have appeared in CBN News, Faithwire, Deseret News, TheBlaze, Human Events, Mediaite, PureFlix, and Fox News, among other outlets. He is the author of several books, including Playing with Fire: A Modern Investigation Into Demons, Exorcism, and Ghosts Hallowell has a B.A. in journalism and broadcasting from the College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, New York and an M.S. in social research from Hunter College in Manhattan, New York.