“It is such a blessing to be able to serve in this capacity using my background in both law and PARL work,” says Jennifer Gray Woods. “I’m also excited that my sons will be able to go to the schools that I went to growing up and be raised around the same love and support that I was.”
After gone for more than 20 years from Michigan, Jennifer Gray Woods is heading home. The former General Conference attorney, who served the church in a variety of roles, has accepted the call to serve as lead counsel as well as Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director for the Lake Union Conference.
“It is such a blessing to be able to serve in this capacity using my background in both law and PARL work,” says Jennifer. “I’m also excited that my sons will be able to go to the schools that I went to growing up and be raised around the same love and support that I was.”
Jennifer grew up in the Berrien Springs area, attending Ruth Murdoch Elementary and Andrews Academy, and has many fond memories of her time here.
One highlight she says was the sense of community she experienced at Highland Church in Benton Harbor. “Most of my treasured memories revolve around church activities, whether it was being part of the children and youth choir, pathfinders or other activities that helped me grow as a young person in the church.”
After graduating from Andrews Academy in 1998, Jennifer received her B.S. (Biology) from Oakwood College in 2002, her J.D. from Harvard University in 2005, and her M.P.H from Johns Hopkins in 2007. She is a member of the Illinois and California bars.
Jennifer joined the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in 2015 as an associate general counsel where she focused on the areas of trademark, copyright, and data privacy. In 2021 Jennifer joined the Department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty as an associate director.
Before joining the General Conference, Jennifer worked in Washington, D.C. at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of General Counsel where her focus was legal issues concerning health operations and health administration.
She has also worked as an attorney in Los Angeles, California, where she provided complex health care regulatory guidance, litigation assistance, transactional advice and more.
Lake Union President Ken Denslow says, “We are incredibly blessed to have someone with Jennifer’s talent and experience joining us in the Lake Union.”
The hardest part of deciding to come back home, says Jennifer, was leaving the new home she had established in the Washington, D.C. area. “For the last seven years I have been able to serve at the General Conference in both the legal and Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Departments and those years have been a blessing to me and my family.
“But, as a colleague told me the other day, seven is a year of completion so when I was called to Lake Union, I knew, after Eddie (my husband) and I prayed, that this is where God wants us to be at this time for our family. Also, the chance to live near my mom, and to raise our boys where I was raised made the decision a lot easier.”
Readers might be familiar with Jennifer because of her father, Lynn Gray, MD, who was one of the first black family medicine physicians to serve in Benton Harbor. Between his family practice office and his time working as an emergency room physician, Gray practiced in the area for over 40 years. During that time, he was active in his local church, health ministry work and as an alum of Andrews University, where he served on the Board for many years, until he passed in 2020.
Jennifer officially joins the Lake Union on Jan. 1, 2023. “I am praying that God continues to prepare and equip me in this new role to provide legal counsel to the Union and to work with our conference PARL directors in the public affairs work, and in the promotion and protection of religious freedom.”
Please keep the family in prayer, as we welcome Jennifer, Eddie and their boys, Declan, 5; and Emil, 3, to the Lake Union Conference.
Debbie Michel is director of Communication for the Lake Union Conference.