Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Belfast researcher to become Otago Professor of Theology and Public Issues


Monday 24 November 2014 12:46pm

Photograph of David Tombs
Dr David Tombs

Dr David Tombs, a leading public theology and reconciliation researcher working in Northern Ireland, will take up the University of Otago’s Howard Paterson Chair in Theology and Public Issues in January.

The Chair is part of the University’s Leading Thinkers initiative and Dr Tombs will also become Director of the University’s associated Centre for Theology and Public Issues. He is currently Assistant Professor of Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation at the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin, undertaking that work in Belfast as Director of Trinity’s Centre for Post-Conflict Justice.

His primary focus is on religion, violence and conflict transformation and his areas of expertise are public theology and post-conflict justice. In his research Dr Tombs seeks to go beyond current debates to break new ground in understanding, interpreting and critiquing the theological and religious dimensions of public issues.

In addition to Northern Ireland, he has carried out research in El Salvador, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Israel/Palestine. His current research is focussed on gender violence and torture practices, and its implications for theology.

University of Otago Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne says she is very much looking forward to Dr Tombs joining the University.

David Tombs has an impressive record as a researcher, teacher and academic leader in public theology. His wide networks and experience in running an interdisciplinary research centre put him on a strong footing to establish new collaborations at University, national and international levels.”

Dr Tombs has written and edited several books including works on theology and social justice in Latin American and edited the collection Rights and Righteousness: Religious Pluralism and Human Rights which was published by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

Originally from England, he has a BA in theology and philosophy from University of Oxford, an STM in theology from Union Theological Seminary, New York, an MA in applied philosophy from the Institute of Education, University of London, and a doctorate in theology at Heythrop College, University of London.

Before joining Trinity College Dublin in 2001, Dr Tombs lectured for 10 years at the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Roehampton London.

He won Trinity’s Provost’s Teaching Excellence Award in 2007 and has supervised around two dozen Masters and PhD students.

In 2008 he was Public Theologian in Residence at Princeton University, a fellowship that is extended to outstanding international scholars for a period of intensive research.

Dr Tombs says he sees Otago’s Centre for Theology and Public Issues as uniquely placed to ask the important questions, recall and reclaim past wisdom, seek new perspectives and insights, shape the public imagination, and promote understanding of the public good.

“The Centre has pioneered a new approach to theology that is relevant to a twenty-first century society. It is hard to imagine a more stimulating or significant way to work at the interface of faith, values, and public issues.

“I hope to build on its outstanding initial years to confirm its position as a vibrant national and international centre of excellence in Public Theology,” Dr Tombs says.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Humanities) Professor Brian Moloughney says he is delighted that Dr Tombs will be taking up his role at Otago.

“David Tombs is very well-placed to ensure that the Centre continues to excel in its mission to examine political, social and economic issues from a theological perspective and contribute in new and challenging ways to debate and policy formation,” Professor Moloughney says.

The Chair and the Centre were established in 2007 as a result of a major gift by the Paterson Charitable Trust.

Mr Howard Paterson was a highly successful Otago businessman who passed away unexpectedly in 2003. He was an Otago graduate who had studied the phenomenology of religion and retained a life-long interest in the area.

The Paterson donation was enhanced through substantial support from the Presbyterian Synod of Otago and Southland and Southland couple Ian and Annette Tulloch. Because the donors’ gifts were made as part of the University’s Leading Thinkers initiative, they were therefore matched under the Government’s Partnerships for Excellence scheme.

For more information, contact:

Professor Brian Moloughney 
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Humanities)
University of Otago
Tel 64 3 479 8672

A list of Otago experts available for media comment is available elsewhere on this website.

Electronic addresses (including email accounts, instant messaging services, or telephone accounts) published on this page are for the sole purpose of contact with the individuals concerned, in their capacity as officers, employees or students of the University of Otago, or their respective organisation. Publication of any such electronic address is not to be taken as consent to receive unsolicited commercial electronic messages by the address holder.