Home Christian News Gateway Church Elder Expresses ‘Personal Compassion’ to Cindy Clemishire Following Robert Morris’...

Gateway Church Elder Expresses ‘Personal Compassion’ to Cindy Clemishire Following Robert Morris’ Resignation

Gateway Church
(L) Gateway Church elder Tra Willbanks address congregation during weekend services. (R) Protestor holds up sign outside of Gateway Church. Screengrab via YouTube @WFAA

As a small group of protestors gathered outside of Gateway Church this past weekend, church elder Tra Willbanks addressed the congregation regarding the allegations that Robert Morris sexually abused a 12-year-old girl in the 1980s.

According to the church’s website, Willbanks is the founder and CEO of Anchor Investments, “a management company that oversees a family of manufacturing companies specializing in heavy and light metal fabrication.” He has served as a non-staff Gateway Church elder since 2014. Willbanks and his wife have seven children, six of whom are girls.

During his nearly 10-minute speech, Willbanks paused multiple times, expressing his sadness about the situation involving Morris’ past alleged sexual abuse. Gateway Church elders claim they only became aware of the details of Morris’ “inappropriate relationship” with a “young lady” after abuse survivor Cindy Clemishire‘s testimony went viral on June 14.

RELATED: Pastor Robert Morris Admits to ‘Inappropriate Sexual Behavior With a Young Lady’ in His 20s; Survivor Says She Was 12

“I really wish that I could sit down with each one of you individually and talk to you one-on-one,” Willbanks said to the attendees, who average 100,000 weekly—a statistic that was recently removed from the church’s website. “Standing before you right now may be the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do.”

Willbanks said that as a “father, what has happened is extremely disturbing and I’m experiencing a wide range of emotions like you.” After he reiterated that he did not know about the allegations against Morris, Willbanks added, “Like so many of you, my wife and I are shocked, devastated, and grieving.”

He then expressed his “personal compassion for Cindy Clemishire.” Personally addressing her, he said, “I can’t imagine carrying a burden like that for so many years. And I want to say to you, Cindy, I’m so sorry.”

Willbanks continued by telling anyone else “who has experienced abuse” that he is “so sorry. I’m just so sorry.”

“I cannot imagine the pain and the emotions [that] this past week has stirred inside of you, as you felt betrayed. On behalf of the elders, we’re sorry,” he added.

The tagline at Gateway Church is “we’re all about people,” Willbanks said. “And you can’t be all about people if you aren’t committed to protecting people. We are committed to protecting people. First and foremost, children and the most vulnerable.”

RELATED: Gateway Church Learned of Robert Morris’ Crime in 2005, Says Abuse Survivor Cindy Clemishire

“Simply put,” Willbanks continued, “abuse in any form cannot be tolerated. And we as elders have the responsibility to do whatever it takes to learn the truth.”