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More abuse claims surface at Gateway Church protest. They don't involve Robert Morris

Nicole Lopez, Fort Worth Star-Telegram on

Published in News & Features

On June 15, Amy Smith had the police called on her as she stood outside Gateway Church in Southlake, protesting the sex abuse scandal involving the church’s founder and then-senior Pastor Robert Morris.

A week later — with Morris no longer the pastor after confessing to molesting a girl in Oklahoma starting when she was 12 years old in the 1980s — Smith was outside the megachurch again, protesting with others in support of Cindy Clemishire, who recently announced she was the young girl sexually abused by Morris.

Among those with Smith were a mother and daughter who are former members of Gateway’s Frisco campus, where they said a church leader was accused of sexual abuse in February 2023.

Smith became an advocate for survivors of sexual abuse after growing up in Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, where she learned about a music minister who had been accused of sexually abusing a boy.

Now, Smith, as well as other protesters, say it’s not enough that Morris resigned from his position at Gateway.

“He should not be allowed to have a platform with that power,” said Smith of Morris, a spiritual adviser for former President Donald Trump. “There are levels to abuse in the church that’s not just physical or sexual, but it’s spiritual and emotional.”

Clemishire, now in her 50s, recently announced in a blog post that Morris abused her in Oklahoma and Texas between 1982 and 1987.

In 2014, Morris publicly announced in a sermon that he had previously been “sexually immoral,” but did not speak on the sexual abuse of Clemishire until the megachurch released a statement to the church staff on June 14, which was leaked on social media.

Morris said in the statement he was involved in “inappropriate sexual behavior with a young lady” in a home where he was staying. He continued by saying the contact he had with Clemishire was wrong but did not involve intercourse.

“Pastor Robert did a phenomenal job of being open and transparent about his transgressions and his past, his moral failures,” said Gateway’s Kenneth W. Fambro II, speaking on behalf of the elders board, which governs the church.

“What we did not know was that she was 12 years old,” Kimbro said, according to NBC News.

The church’s board of elders expressed their sympathies to Clemishire and her family, according to a news release.

Smith says the church has known about the abuse.

“This isn’t the first time that she’s [Clemishire] tried to get people to listen,” Smith said.

Smith told the Star-Telegram that Clemishire confronted Morris years ago and the church tried to get her to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

“He [Morris] didn’t repent and do this on his own,” said Smith. “He got caught, he got exposed and that’s why he was having to resign.”

 

Smith demands accountability from the church administration and for Morris to confess to police.

More accusations involving Gateway

According to some former Gateway members, sex abuse concerns have been raised before at the church — as recent as last year..

Anita Ishee and her daughter Nicole Ishee said they regularly attended the Gateway campus in Frisco, where they even served on a children’s ministry devoted to teaching parents how to protect their children from dangers including sex abuse.

They became acquainted with a man from the church who was part of the Frisco campus’ leadership. In February 2023, Anita and Nicole learned the man had been accused of molesting children and they reported it to the Frisco campus leaders — only for the church to respond by telling pastors to not reveal the accusations, Anita told the Star-Telegram at Saturdays’ protest in Southlake.

Church leaders from Gateway’s Frisco campus did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Anita and Nicole say they were verbally attacked by Gateway churchgoers when they tried to publicize the allegations.

“They didn’t want anymore exposure,” Anita said. “They don’t want the truth.”

“All we did was follow the law. It is very black and white. If you were told about a child, by law, you have to report it. That is literally all we did,” said Nicole, Anita’s daughter.

About two months after the Ishees approached church leadership in Frisco, the man — 65-year-old Scott Gerber — was arrested on two charges of molesting a child under the age of 14 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, court records show.

He is awaiting a jury trial and his next scheduled court appearance is in October.

“It’s just very frustrating that there are still families there in the Frisco campus that are very much supporting him and are upset with us, attacking us,” Anita said.

The mother and daughter are done with Gateway Church.

“We’ll never step foot in there again,” Anita said.

“As difficult as it’s been with what we have had to deal with for 18 months, it’s worth it. If we can protect one child from this, it’s absolutely worth it,” said Anita, in tears. “I would do it a thousand times over ... But it’s gotta be exposed.”


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