I’m one of those parishioners who would like to hear more sermons from well-educated theologians. Even if the circumstances are different (see comments to Allan’s post), I, like John Wesley, have but a lowly MA.
But there are several things that will need to happen for this to work.
First, we will need to redefine the role of a pastor in the minds of the people in the pews. For them, preaching is less than an hour of their pastor’s work during the week. Sure, if you pin them down on the subject, they’ll admit there must be preparation time, but it’s still only a minor thing. They want to see the pastor visiting, administering the church, attending all the committees, being around for social occasions, and in some churches doing part of the maintenance work. Face it, to most of the people in the pews, theology just isn’t work.
Second, we need to learn to have the whole church do pastoral work. A nation of priests sounds alright until we need to put it into action. There are people in every church who are called to do pastoral work, such as visiting the sick and shut-ins, helping with various ministries to those in need, and so forth. There are others gifted for administration. If the work was divided between the gifted, perhaps there would be more time. Then we could have a pastor who was primarily teacher or “resident theologian.”
Third, if we get the daily non-theological work (or the theology in practice, perhaps) taken care of, we need to convince the people of the church that a theologian is a worthwhile investment. I think it would be. In fact, it is one of the few staff positions I see as necessary. In many cases, a group of churches should band together and hire a resident theologian. Then the leadership of those churches could go study with that individual, and in turn teach their congregations. The theologian, of course, should also spend time with everyone.
Fourth, if we are to reduce the separation of the academy from the church, perhaps the academy itself needs to be distributed more. Modern technology might be able to help with this, and I don’t mean largely by distance learning in this case. I mean by theologians, resident or not, giving classes in various areas that would be tracked for credit. In other words, one’s academic degree would not be accomplished entirely in the academy, and one’s academic career could not be spent entirely in the ivory tower.
I’m probably leaving dozens of problems out of this discussion, but since I don’t see us getting past my points 1 & 2, I guess that’s enough!