If it Wasn’t for the Women: Then and Now

Join us Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022 at 4:00pm CST for the Women of Faith panel. (Zoom link)

  • Rev. Judy D. Cummings, DMin (Moderator)
  • Phillis Isabella Sheppard, Ph.D.
  • Rev. Jerrolyn Eulinberg, Ph.D.
  • Rev. Amy Elizabeth Steele Ph.D.
  • Rev. Sondrea Tolbert, J.D, M.Div.


Rev. Judy D. Cummings, DMin
A public justice theologian, Dr. Judy Cummings is one of Nashville’s most influential leaders and as a trained community organizer is frequently called upon to speak and to act on issues of injustice. A proven leader who has a decades-long strong record of public service she currently serves as Chair of Membership for Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH), Co-Chair for the Moving Forward Transit Plans Initiative, and is Co-Convenor of the Anti-Racism/Pro-Reconciliation Commission for the TN Region Christian Church. Dr. Cummings serves on various boards whose work for justice fuels her passion including Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship (IMF), Centennial Park Conservancy Board; Advisory Board for the Center for Women’s Health Research at Meharry Medical College; Board of Visitors at Vanderbilt Theological Seminary, Disciples Divinity House, Southern Christian Coalition of Pastors, Forward TN and the African American Clergy Collective of TN.

Ordained in the Christian Church (DOC), Dr. Cummings served for ten years, as the Senior Pastor of the historic New Covenant Christian Church (Disciples of Christ. After retiring from the full-time pastorate, Dr. Cummings maintains an active Christian counseling ministry, serves as an adjunct professor for Central Baptist Theological Seminary, continues to preach and teach across the country, and is an avid golfer.

Dr. Cummings has been married to her best friend, the love of her life for forty-seven years and they have two adult children and are Grammy and Grampy to five adorable grandchildren and many other special grands.

Phillis Isabella Sheppard, Ph.D.
Phillis Isabella Sheppard, Ph.D. is the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Associate Professor of Religion, Psychology, and Culture, Vanderbilt Divinity School and is the Director of the James Lawson Institute for the Research and Study of Nonviolent Movements, Vanderbilt University. Dr. Sheppard is a practical theologian, psychoanalyst, and womanist ethnographer. She is the author of Self, Culture and Others in Womanist Practical Theology (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) and Tilling Sacred Ground: Interiority, Black Women, and Religious Experience (Rowman and Littlefield/Lexington Books, forthcoming, 2021), and numerous articles on womanist approaches to pastoral theology, culture and psychology, and gender, race and sexuality. Her research is grounded in lived experience and the conviction that social and individual transformation is possible and necessary.

Rev. Dr. Jerrolyn Eulinberg
The Rev. Dr. Jerrolyn Eulinberg is a graduate of Chicago Theological Seminary with a Doctor of Philosophy in Theology, Ethics, and Human Sciences – Sociology of Religion. Rev. Eulinberg is an itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. She has served at Greater Institutional A.M.E. Church in Chicago as associate minister for the last ten years. As a ministerial professional she served as project director at Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference for two national Lilly Endowment initiatives – “Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders” designed to address financial challenges, and “Called to Lives of Meaning and Purpose,” designed to provide a space for church congregations to critically discern their vocations.

Dr. Eulinberg’s academic focus is interdisciplinary, through a womanist lens, on social injustices and the discrimination that continues to pervade America. Her research interests are womanist issues, structural racism, and the interlocking systems of terrorism that operate within America’s oppressive social structures. She believes the struggle to eradicate white supremacy, white privilege, and racism from our social, political, and economic aspects of life are the lingering effects from slavery, which has constructed bias systems in our nation, that continue to marginalize people based on race, gender, class, and sexual orientation. Dr. Eulinberg asks a few guiding questions – how do the structures of society continue to inscribe oppression and suffering in the life experiences of African American people? What is the social role and ecclesial response to this injustice?

Rev. Dr. Eulinberg is excited to announce that her first book was released in May of 2021 entitled – A Lynched Black Wall Street: A Womanist Perspective on Terrorism, Religion, and Black Resilience in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. This project marks the one-hundredth-year remembrance of a well-kept secret in our American history and the ethical challenges that still surround the “value” of Black bodies as equal in this country. When we reflect on the history of Black Wall Street, we celebrate the most successful Black business district of this nation, and the awesome accomplishments of remarkable African Americans in an unprecedented time of racism, white supremacy, and public lynching.

Concomitantly, when we reflect on the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre we lament, remembering that white racial hatred and jealousy of Black success terrorized and burned Black Wall Street to the ground, killing hundreds. Unfortunately, today racial inequity still exists. We must continue our fight for social, political, and economic justice.

Rev. Amy Elizabeth Steele Ph.D.
Amy Elizabeth Steele is an administrator, teacher, clergywoman, mentor, and mother. She currently serves as Assistant Dean for Student Affairs and Community Life at Vanderbilt University Divinity School.

Rev. Dr. Steele is a frequent lecturer on and off campus, teaching often on the works of 20th century mystic Howard Thurman. Her current book project Howard Thurman and the Making of a Public Afro-Spirituality explores the theoretical contributions in Thurman’s mystical aesthetic, a trope she uses to name the religious encounter and the deeply aesthetic aspects of Thurman’s rhetoric. She frequently leads sessions on spiritual formation and facilitates gatherings on inclusive ethics and community life. Her other academic interests include Black religious thought, womanist ethics, social witness, and homiletics.

She earned both the MDiv (2000) and the PhD (2012) from Vanderbilt Divinity and Vanderbilt University Graduate Department of Religion (Ethics and Society), respectively. She is ordained in the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc. (February 2001) and is currently serving as an associate member of Cornerstone United Methodist Church (2010).

Rev. Sondrea L. Tolbert, J.D., M.Div.
Rev. Sondrea L. Tolbert, J.D., M.Div. is the Executive Director of Scarritt Bennett Center, adjunct professor of Business Law, and the first woman ordained and appointed as an assistant pastor of the historic Fairfield Missionary Baptist Church.

At Fairfield, Rev. Tolbert founded Sisterhood R.O.C.K.S. (Radically Obedient ChristianWomen Kingdom Surrendered), a ministry that empowers women and girls by offering regular development opportunities, distributing products to women and children experiencing homelessness, and holding regular mentoring round tables for teen girls. Additionally, she is the visionary for the Annual Fairfield Sisterhood Tea that empowers women and girls across the community; My Sister’s Closet, a free clothing boutique for women; and Pampering with a Purpose, which—in conjunction with various community organizations—provides free health services, business opportunities for women and minority vendors, educational materials and sessions, and self-care techniques.

Rev. Sondrea is the immediate past director of the National Consortium of Black Women in Ministry (NCBWIM), Nashville Chapter, where she instituted initiatives involving breast cancer awareness, domestic violence, and HIV/AIDS. She is the visionary for Pink Sunday Nashville that raises breast cancer awareness in churches, synagogues, mosque, faith-based organizations throughout middle Tennessee.

As a freelance writer, Sondrea further equips the body of Christ as the author of “On the Bright Side Morning Joy”, a collection of devotionals that awakens and encourages readers to live on the bright side. She has received numerous awards for her work including proclamations from the State of Tennessee, the Mayor of Nashville, the Visionary Award from Fashioned in His Image, Inc., the 2018 National Sojourner Truth Award from the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Club Central Alabama, and an ATHENA 2021 Nominee. Rev. Sondrea is member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and Les Gemmes, Inc., Nashville Chapter.

Rev. Tolbert is a graduate of Fisk University, North Carolina Central University School of Law and Payne Theological Seminary. She loves reading; spending time with family; and cuddling with Amos, her Maltipoo.