Advocacy Series: Rev. Frank Morris

The oldest of four sons, Reverend Dr. Frank Morris experienced domestic violence in one of the most horrific ways possible. His mother lost her life through the reckless behavior of his father. Despite this, Rev. Morris forgave him. When his father addressed his behavior, it helped Morris see how broad the problem of domestic violence is and from that point on he dedicated a large part of his career to the cause.

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Reverend Frank Morris is an ordained Baptist Minister and a well-known Pastor of Biblical Counseling at Ocean Avenue Baptist Church in Jersey City, NJ. He has spent the majority of his career doing whatever it takes to immerse himself in the subject of domestic violence, advocate an end to violence against women, and act as a role-model in the community to his fellow man.

Rev. Morris’ journey toward domestic violence advocacy formally began when Lynn Kelly of the YWCA in Union County, invited him to attend a training for men. In that training, Rev. Morris learned many lessons, but one specifically that would stick with him for the rest of his career, “if you want to know something about a woman, ask a woman.” This is a lesson he follows every day.

Shortly after this training, Morris was introduced to Tony Porter, the CEO of A Call to Men. Rev. Morris was a part of one of the first cohorts of students in the now-nationally-renowned organization. He then participated in another training led by the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence (NJCEDV). He was determined to learn as much as he could to prevent domestic violence from occurring or intervene if it does. 

Morris received his Doctorate in Philosophy from Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary which led him to write the book, Women, Why Are You Weeping? Examining the Church's Response to Domestic Violence

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Frank is a devoted advocate committed to ending violence against women, promoting and encouraging clergy and congregational awareness of domestic violence and generating support for its victims. WomenRising and Reverend Morris have worked together for many years. The Ocean Avenue Baptist Church sponsors annual bedding and clothing drives for women and their children who are sheltered by WomenRising. The Church hosts speakers on DV and provides educational material and resources for the congregation. In 2016, WomenRising honored Rev. Morris at our Annual Celebration of Service Gala for his partnership and his work with victims of domestic violence.

Reflecting upon what the church must be, Morris recalled: “When I think of the movie the Hunchback of Notre Dame, I think of how the story’s protagonist, Quasimodo (played by Charles Laughton) orphaned, disfigured and deformed reaches out to Esmeralda (Maureen O’Hara) and scoops down in a single bound by the bell-rope and with outstretched hand carries Esmeralda off into the cathedral, under the law of sanctuary, he rescues her from certain death.

That is conceivably what some might think of when envisioning the church as a sanctuary.  “The above mentioned cinematic imagery pales alongside another image I became intimately acquainted with, the image of Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary.  His atoning sacrifice for all of humanity is stunningly breathtaking and beautifully illustrates the depth of God’s love for all creation.  Swooping down from the cross, Christ rescues the disinherited and makes us sons and daughters joint heirs of his kingdom.  The church is the one place where the poor, captives, the blind and the oppressed can turn to according to the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 61:1).” Rev. Morris wants to ensure that the church is truly the sanctuary for everyone, especially women.

Rev. Morris’ passion to combat domestic violence has led to his devotion to educating himself on the subject and advocating for victims, but he believes that other men can and should do better. Though most men are well-meaning, some simply are not.  It is crucial that well-meaning men do not enable those who do not mean well. Those who do not mean well perceive silence as acceptance. 

He compares a healthy relationship to boxers in the ring. “You are out in the world fighting and struggling.  When you come back to your corner, you expect to be comforted and encouraged. You do not want to go back to your corner and get hit with a bucket.”  His biblical admonishment is to those who are subjected to, or have witnessed violence.  “Consider it, take counsel, and speak up!” Numbers 19:30

Frank Morris is a true advocate.  May his example urge more men and religious leaders to stand up against domestic violence and to work together to promote healthy and loving relationships among men and women.