Megachurch pastor and ex-Trump adviser admits child sexual abuse

<span>Donald Trump is greeted by Pastor Robert Morris at an event in Dallas, Texas, on 11 June 2020.</span><span>Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters</span>
Donald Trump is greeted by Pastor Robert Morris at an event in Dallas, Texas, on 11 June 2020.Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

A Texas evangelical pastor and former spiritual adviser to Donald Trump has confessed to sexually assaulting a young girl in his past.

Robert Morris, a founding pastor of the Dallas-based Gateway megachurch, was accused by an Oklahoma woman of sexual abuse in the 1980s, beginning when she was 12 and continuing until the age of 16.

Morris confirmed the allegations to a religious publication, the Christian Post.

In a statement to the Christian Post, Morris said: “When I was in my early 20s, I was involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with a young lady in a home where I was staying.”

In her own statement to the Christian Post, the victim of the assault said she was “appalled” at the description of her as a “young lady” and said the repeated abuse had taken decades for her to process. She said her family had threatened Morris with the police and later considered filing a lawsuit.

Other churches where Morris has ministered, such as Shady Grove church in Grand Prairie, were allegedly aware of his abusive history, but Morris told the Christian Post he received counseling and had since “walked in purity and accountability in this area”.

Shady Grove church became the Gateway church’s Grand Prairie campus in 2013.

Morris told the Christian Post: “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.”

Despite his admission, Morris will continue to be a primary speaker at the church on weekends and his son, James Morris, will assume his father’s senior pastor duties next year.

Morris was never criminally charged and by the time his accuser decided to explore legal action, she was advised the statute of limitations for criminal or civil action had probably expired.

In a statement to the local Dallas news outlet WFAA, Gateway church said the “35-year-old matter” had been resolved: “Pastor Robert has been open and forthright about a moral failure he had over 35 years ago when he was in his 20s 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 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. Since the resolution of the 35-year-old matter, there have been no other moral failures.”

Morris’s accuser said while she had forgiven him for the sexual abuse, she did not believe he should have returned to ministry.

Morris was appointed to Trump’s evangelical advisory board for his 2016 presidential campaign.

And in a 2020 roundtable discussion with faith leaders in Texas, then-president Trump thanked two pastors, one of whom was Morris, for attending the event.

“They’re great people. Great people with a great reputation. I have to say that,” Trump said. “Great reputation. And Gateway church – the team has been incredible in hosting us.”