Change of Calling : Deputy D.A. Chooses 'Proactive' Role, Leaves Courtroom for Pulpit

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Friday was Arthur Gray II's last day in the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. At the entrance to his farewell luncheon, he left a stack of his new business cards. But instead of the corporate logo of a big downtown law firm, the cards bore images of a cross, a dove, a chalice and a crown.

"Abundant Joy Christian Fellowship," it read.

In an unusual change of professions, Gray is leaving the courtroom for the pulpit. Whereas in the past he sought to bring transgressors to justice, now he seeks to bring them to Christ.

After eight years as a deputy district attorney--two of them juggling his job with part-time ministerial work--Gray is becoming the full-time pastor of his Pentecostal church.

"This is a little out of the ordinary," acknowledged Assistant Dist. Atty. Michael E. Tranbarger, Gray's boss. Deputy district attorneys often move on after getting some experience, but it's usually to a higher-paying private practice.

Still, to most of Gray's colleagues, it came as little surprise that he would prefer the lower-paying calling of ministering to a congregation in Inglewood.

"He has a lot of patience, a great sense of humor, a lot of compassion for people," Tranbarger said. "He's been involved in his church for some time. He's given a lot of thought to what his true calling was."

As the waiters were clearing away remains of the lunch at a Mexican restaurant, Gray, 37, explained that it was not that he had become disenchanted with his work as a prosecutor.

"I prosecuted young men and sent them away for many, many years," said Gray, who for several years handled gang homicide cases in Compton. But "being a prosecutor is very reactive. Being a pastor is proactive, trying to change people's lives before they end up in that situation. I felt I could do more."

Even in the district attorney's office, he had been turning his efforts to crime prevention and mentoring. After his gang assignment in Compton, Gray worked in the district attorney's crime prevention program, trying to keep youngsters out of trouble. Most recently he recruited new hires for the office.

In the meantime, the minister of the church he had attended for 15 years decided to retire. Gray was asked to take the job temporarily and then permanently. For the past two years, he and his wife have been "running around like crazy," he said.

When Fridays arrived, co-workers would let out a sigh of relief, and Gray would respond with a "so what?"

With some help from his wife, Pamela, an elementary schoolteacher, Gray finally decided to concentrate on his pastoral work.

"If you ever heard Arthur speak and minister, you would know it really was what he was supposed to do," she said.

Clearly, Gray--known in his congregation as Pastor Art--likes to preach. In his farewell remarks Friday, he couldn't help but slip in a parable about meeting life's challenges rather than running from them.

He cited the Bible passages for those who had the Good Book, and for those who didn't, suggested they drop by the Abundant Joy Christian Fellowship.

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