Dr Paul Tonson
Mont Albert North
I was born in New Zealand to dedicated Baptist parents. From a study background in Maths and Economics, I undertook seminary studies among American Baptists in Rochester, New York (1971-75), focusing on Hebrew Bible. Through the liberal ethos of the professors, and the activism of women, Blacks and Gays, I began a journey towards a radically progressive viewpoint.
During fifteen years ministry in NZ, I completed an M.Theol (MCD) around the figure of Abraham, as presented in the Bible, the Talmud and the Qur’an. This study underlies my ongoing commitment to interfaith endeavours and my earlier role in JCMA (Jews Christians and Muslims in Australia). I am aligned with other Christian leaders who would prefer Religion Studies to be included in the general curriculum rather than provided within the special SRI framework as at present.
After three years seminary teaching in Papua New Guinea, I came to Melbourne in 1994 to write a PhD (Deakin) thesis on the figure of Lot (Genesis 19), representing those, like me, who find themselves on the edge of traditional faith. This research highlighted the mix of contrasting theologies found in the Bible and undergirds my pluralist understanding of religions.
During 20 years ministry in the UCA, I have identified with the progressive Christian community and with an agnostic stance towards Christian dogma.
I am committed to dialogue with other voices, in order to open my beliefs and my life to the test of authenticity which can be most effectively offered not by a fellow believer but by the Other, including those of no faith.
My major project is administration of the PATHWAYS program that offers presentations to Year 10 students by young adults representing a range of both faith and freethought worldviews.