Dutney was born in Charleville in south-west Queensland, the third of five children. He lived there with his family until the age of seven, when the family moved to Brisbane. He attended the Taringa State Primary School and Brisbane Boys College, after which he studied at the University of Queensland, graduating with a BA in 1981. He married Heather Ann Woods on 17 December 1977. Their only child, Frazer McVeigh Dutney, died in infancy. Dutney was accepted as a candidate for the ministry of the word in 1977 and began training at Trinity Theological College, Brisbane in February 1978. He completed his studies there in November 1980 at the age of 22. After working as the titles clerk at Cannon and Peterson solicitors for nine months, Dutney and his wife relocated to Scotland where he took up post-graduate studies at the University of St Andrews on the east coast of Fife.
After completing a Postgraduate Diploma in Ecumenical Studies at St Andrews in 1982, Dutney went on to complete his first doctorate in 1985. His Doctor of Philosophy thesis, "The Development of the Understanding of Ministry in the Australian Church Union Negotiations 1957–1971", was awarded the University of St Andrews' Samuel Rutherford Thesis Prize. During his time in Scotland, Dutney also served as a minister at St Andrew's Parish Church, Leven (Church of Scotland). He was ordained to the ministry of the word by the Presbytery of Brisbane while he was serving in Leven at a service conducted in Leven by the Presbytery of Brisbane with the attendance of members of the Church of Scotland presbyteries of Kirkcaldy and St Andrews.
Dutney returned to Australia in 1985 to take up a position as the chaplain at Wesley College and the University of Sydney, as well as minister of the Wesley College Chapel Parish.
In 1989 Dutney moved to Adelaide to take up a position as lecturer in Systematic Theology at Parkin-Wesley College. He took over as principal of the college in 2001 and was the foundation principal when Parkin-Wesley College was reconstituted as the Uniting College for Leadership and Theology in 2009. The Rev. Steve Taylor was appointed principal of the college while Dutney served his term as President of the Assembly.
In 1998 Dutney was appointed as the foundation Director of Flinders University's Centre for Theology, Science & Culture, a position he held until 2001. In 2008 he completed his second doctorate, a Doctor of Education degree at Flinders University. He gained the full academic status of professor in Flinders University's Department of Theology in 2010.
Dutney was also the President of the Adelaide College of Divinity from 2010 to 2012.
Dutney is widely published on theology and ethics in both religious and mainstream publications and is a regular media commentator on ethics and spirituality.
Dutney is regarded as a leading interpreter of the history and theology of the Uniting Church. His work Introducing the Uniting Church in Australia (The Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia, 2008) has also been translated into Korean. Dutney is known for his passion for the Uniting Church's founding document, the Basis of Union. His other works include Manifesto for Renewal: The Shaping of a New Church (1986), Food, Sex & Death: A Personal Account of Christianity (1993), Playing God: Ethics and Faith (2001), Where did the joy come from? Revisiting the Basis of Union (2001), and ‘A Genuinely Educated Ministry’: Three Studies on Theological Education in the Uniting Church in Australia (2007, 2nd Edition 2011).
His most recent book Backyard Theology (2011) draws on his experience as a regular commentator on ethics and spirituality on the Mornings program on radio station 891 ABC Adelaide with presenters Matthew Abraham and David Bevan.
Dutney is a specialist in bioethics. He was a member of several Human Research Ethics committees, including those of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the Adelaide College of Divinity. He was a member of the South Australian Council on Reproductive Technology from 1990 and its chairperson from 1996 to 2005.
In 2001 Dutney's book Playing God: Ethics and Faith (2001) was published by HarperCollins. The work was extensively cited by Robert French, who would later become the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, in French's scholarly article "Ethics at the Beginning and Ending of Life".
Dutney was a gospel singer and recording artist, releasing two albums Reason to Live (1978) and I've Got Eyes (1980). He has written many songs for worship which are in wide use and published in a variety of resources. Five of his songs are included in Life Overflowing: 13th Assembly Worship Resources (2012).