I'm also called to ministry. As an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, I am committed to a lifetime of bringing God's word to a hurting world.
I think I'm also called to teaching. The dimension of ministry I enjoy most is study, contemplation, preaching, and teaching all ages. I really enjoy helping people come to new realizations and insights in their understanding of God's work in the world. I love teaching children and bringing the eternal story into their lives - helping them find their place in it.
I don't view these calls as contradictory or mutually exclusive. I have had professors all along the way who ministered to me, and who viewed their work in academia as a called vocation. I've long suspected that my call may lean in this direction as well.
Our United Methodist Church struggles to find enough ordained elders who are called to teaching in seminaries. But I can't imagine my journey into ministry without Dr. Meeks and Bishop Pennel, who gently cared for us, even as they demanded the highest academic performance.
So, if I'm called to it, and I will find joy in this vocation, what is holding me back?
1) Jeff and I have entered into the season of growing small humans. We want more than one of these, if our bodies will cooperate. I've come to realize that they require a lot of time, energy, and the very best of me as a parent. Unfortunately, pursuing a doctorate right now would demand the same things - for about five or seven years! (Yes, don't get me started on the Master of Divinity. The only advanced degree - 84 credit hours! - that gives you no advantage on a doctorate.) Can I balance it all without losing my mind? I'm not sure if I want to find out the hard way.
2) We are committed to growing deep roots in a community. There is no guarantee that I will always be appointed to serve a church in Nashville, but I will always be in Middle Tennessee somewhere. Close enough to our family and friends here that we have a network. The reality of the academic life is that you have to be willing to move where you are accepted to study, and then be willing to move where there are jobs in teaching. Good theology programs are not a dime a dozen. They are flung throughout the nation. I can apply to Vanderbilt, and I could very well be rejected. I've made Jeff move away once before, and it was not a particularly happy time for us.
3) A more existential problem. I will be expected not only to teach as an academic, but also to contribute to the body of knowledge in my field through publishing and lecturing at conferences and events. Will I have enough original thoughts to do this for decades? Will the well run dry?
And just what would I study, you ask? I've actually got that pretty well figured out. Allow me to put you sleep: I am interested in studying the period in United Methodist and American history just prior to the Civil War (1840 - 1860 or so). I think that the UMC comes closest to mirroring the American political system of any denomination, and as such, we have forecasted many of the political changes that came about in American history. We split before the Union and the Confederacy did, over just the same reasons: slavery serving as the smokescreen for a federalist/republican controversy.
The current best institutions to study such a topic? Emory or Duke. At least they're still in the South?