‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked.’ Ezekiel 33:11


“As long as I live, I’ll take no pleasure in the death of a Christian ministry” – Wade Burleson.


Note: I received the news that Robert Morris had stepped down five minutes before I posted.


Social medianational news, and international news agencies are ablaze with the news that Pastor Robert Morris began sexually molesting a 12-year-old girl for nearly five years, starting Christmas Day, 1982, and ending when the girl’s father discovered the abuse in 1987.

I have not slept well. My initial anger over discovering Robert Morris’ abuse of Cindy Clemishire has, with the tsunami of news coverage, turned to pity for the Robert Morris family.

Before you judge me for my pity, allow me to explain.

I have some friends (like many of you) who have been guilty of child sexual abuse at one time in their lives. They’ve carried the stain of their sin (crime) throughout life.

One child sex offender, whom I call a friend, is now in his 70s. He’s a remarkable Christian man who genuinely loves Christ and others.

His crime occurred decades ago. He’s been tagged throughout his adult life as “a sexual offender,” but he’s learned to take his identity from God’s grace in Jesus Christ.

God’s grace defines who he is, but the law of the land determines what he can do.


Consequences of crimes are cultural and temporal; forgiveness of crimes is personal and eternal.

The church I pastored in Oklahoma (1992-2022) had an extensive prison ministry.

With permission from the Department of Corrections, we had state correctional officers bring prisoners in orange prison suits to church.

None of the offenders had been convicted of sex crimes.

However, friends talk.

Soon, men and women released from maximum security prisons after committing child sexual abuse crimes were coming to Enid, Oklahoma, to be a part of our ministry.

I developed friendships with many of these prisoners. But hang on….

We had stringent rules for how child molesters could attend our church.


Wade Burleson is preaching in an orange prison jumpsuit to illustrate to prisoners that “You are not defined by the clothes you wear, but by the cross you bear.”


  1. We had to be informed when they were coming.
  2. Once they stepped foot on the property, they were escorted.
  3. They could never be around children or walk through the children’s wing– for life.
  4. The photo of the sexual offender with their background and the specificity of the crimes was passed around to all church leaders and children workers.
  5. The photo was hung on the wall in our print room for all staff to see.
  6. If any child sexual offender ever violated these guidelines, the police were called.
  7. These guidelines were the proper consequences of their crime of child sexual molestation.


My friendship with the child sexual offenders was (and is) real. I’ve forgiven them, I love them, and they love me.

I taught them that “grace” defines who they are and that state “law” defines what they can do.

To be candid, my understanding of the dangers of child sexual abuse and the dangerous trauma involved has expanded over time.

 Harvey Weinstein’s private pilot, Kevin Taylor, began watching me teach the Scriptures online. In 2017, Kevin was diagnosed with terminal cancer. A few months later, I flew to California to spend time with Kevin and his family for his death. This trip transformed my understanding of sexual abuse and the power of offenders to control the narrative. Some of those nameless girls in the back of Harvey Weinstein’s plane were minors working as models or actresses.

Weinstein’s pilot, Kevin Taylor, died with regret that he did not do more to stop what was happening in Harvey Weinstein’s plane.


Moms Know Best

Mary Burleson (mother) and Wade Burleson (the author)

I called my mom yesterday. In pity for the Robert Morris family, I said:

“Mom, many people are saying on the Internet that the child sexual abuse of Cindy happened decades ago. They’re saying, ‘Forgive Robert!’ He’s been restored! I struggle because I have friends who’ve committed child sexual abuse. You know I’ve fought for abuse victims for the last seventeen years, but my heart goes out to Robert Morris and his family. I am not taking any pleasure in the death of his ministry. We both know child abusers who’ve been forgiven and are humble Christians now. Help me understand what I’m missing about Robert Morris.

My mom responded:

“There’s something “off” in a person who would sexually abuse a child. Something mental, emotional, spiritual, or psychological is off. Sure, the child sexual perpetrator can eventually be forgiven and even healed if there is genuine repentance. However, a child abuse victim has a lifetime sentence of hurt. Should not the perpetrator carry a lifetime sentence of recovery as well? This isn’t a matter of forgiveness. You can forgive Robert Morris, but he’s forever disqualified from pastoral ministry. We love broken, sexual child abusers who love Jesus. We don’t make them Senior Pastors.”


A Gateway Member

Gateway Southlake - The Beck Group

Gateway Church, Southlake, Texas

Fifteen years ago (2009), a member of Gateway Church came across a post on Oprah Winfrey’s website in response to a show about Ted Haggard, the disgraced Colorado megachurch pastor who was replaced by a pastor from Gateway (see post below).

A woman commented claimed to have been “molested” by a pastor at Gateway Church. That woman was Cindy Clemishire, Robert Morris’ victim.

This member of Gateway (who wishes to remain anonymous) responded to my friend Cindy’s comment.  Cindy Clemishire, the 12-year-old girl abused by Robert Morris, even went online to get someone to listen after being rebuffed repeatedly by church leaders and elders.

This Gateway member and Cindy connected via email. In February 2009, this Gateway member requested a meeting with Robert Morris to get an explanation of the abuse. Here is an email she sent to Pastor Morris directly.

Pastor Robert,

My husband and I are Gateway members, and this has been my church home for the past 6 years. I want to first thank you for your Bible-based, practical teaching and for helping to build such a dynamic, Christ-centered church. We absolutely love it here.

Because of my respect for you and Gateway, I was very surprised to read a post on an Internet message board in response to the Ted Haggard appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show yesterday. This person made some off-hand comments involving you that I was very taken aback by. I have no desire to listen to false rumors, so I wanted to ask you directly about this. (See attached PDF document for the correspondence. There are 3 pages — one post/e-mail per page.)

Of course, I don’t want to believe that these comments are true. I remember you mentioning that you had a dark past before getting saved, but these events supposedly happened after that. Usually, when I read something negative about someone I respect, I am able to gloss over it, assuming that it’s false. However, having read these person’s comments and explanation, I’m having a hard time figuring out what to think about this information. It doesn’t seem to be someone who is out to slander Gateway, as they didn’t mention you by name until they sent me a private message in response to my inquiry.

Obviously, the private details of your life are your own business. But this was something that I felt I had to share with you, because — as I’m sure you understand — reading this about your pastor and leader is hard to swallow. And just forgetting about it without coming to some kind of conclusion is impossible. In addition, I think it’s important that you know someone is saying this about you in a forum that is widely read (message boards on Oprah’s Web site).

I look forward to your reply. Again, I’m just trying to make heads or tails of this. That’s why I contacted you directly and privately. Thank you again for your awesome preaching and leadership of Gateway.

Instead, two “Executive Pastors” (Tom Lane and David Smith) were sent to meet with this concerned Gateway member. Listen to the Gateway member’s synopsis of that 2009 meeting (she sent this to me this afternoon)

– They quickly reframed this as a brief, consensual affair with no intercourse between two adults. It was implied that they were very close in age.

– They said that “this woman” would pop her head up every few years and they would have to deal with it. I now see that as trying to suppress the real story. I believe that’s why the second-in-command (Tom Lane) at a large church was willing to meet with me in person about this.

– They said Pastor Robert had wanted to share more from the pulpit, but the elders did not think it was necessary and thought it would be a distraction to his message. They said it was sufficient that the elders / board members knew, and that it was so far in the past that it didn’t need to be brought up now.

– I left the meeting feeling reassured that this wasn’t what I thought it was. Now I look back and see it was so much worse than I had even imagined.

– I believe they took advantage of the fact that their church members, including me, had underwent years of brainwashing to believe in submitting to their spiritual authority, the leaders could do no wrong, there is a hierarchy we all have to respect, we will be blessed when we respect the authority, etc.

All of this – along with me being only in my 20s – framed my mindset and why I was so willing to believe them. They are also pretty smooth talkers and come across in a very polished, disarming way. They were not combative at all, so it was easy to believe they were being honest and open.


Serious Questions

I wrote a book called Fraudulent Authority: Pastors Who Seek To Rule Over People.

My remarkable friend, Jim Milonas, Executive Director of the Christian Fellowship Community, told me this morning:

“The structure of the modern church is top-down authority. Pastors with authority get by doing things that should disqualify them because the modern church is more about submission to authority than community.”

Jim, you are right. Gateway, I hope you understand the issue and respond correctly to this scandal.

Robert Morris can be forgiven. He and his family can be loved.

But Robert Morris is forever disqualified from serving as a Pastor in Christ’s church.