People with opposing views on same-sex marriage should not be labelled as “monstrous”, the former Archbishop of Canterbury has said.
Lord Williams, 72, will make the comments as part of his talk for the BBC’s Reith Lectures series.
The Telegraph has seen an advance copy of his speech in which he warns that moral debates "have become weaponised in the current culture wars", meaning that nuance is lost.
He will also caution that cancel culture means that people of opposing views on contentious issues - such as same-sex marriage, abortion and assisted dying - are seen as “automatically monstrous and oppressive".
His speech reads: “What about the evangelical registrar who will not solemnise same-sex marriages? What about the legal allowances made for Catholic doctors who will not perform abortions? How disruptive can the public manifestation of convictions be allowed to become in a diverse society?
“Questions like these have become weaponised in the current culture wars raging across North Atlantic societies in particular, in ways that more or less rule out nuanced exploration of what’s going on.”
The speech continues: “It won’t do to demonise those with inconvenient consciences as automatically monstrous and oppressive.
“You can’t simply ascribe deliberately evil intention to someone who disagrees on principle with the principles you think self-evident. Think, for example, of the debates over abortion or physician-assisted dying.”
Bishop of Oxford backs same-sex marriage
Lord Williams is set to make the comments as one of four speakers to deliver the BBC Radio 4 Reith Lectures for 2022 in the broadcaster’s centenary year. He will deliver his lecture alongside Chimamanda Adichie, the Nigerian writer; Darren McGarvey, the Scottish rapper and social commentator; and Dr Fiona Hill, the British-American foreign affairs specialist and author.
His comments come after the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev Steven Croft, last month became the most senior Church of England cleric to back same-sex marriage.
In his landmark declaration, acknowledging the “acute pain and distress of LGBTQ+ people in the life of the Church”, which breaks ranks with the Church’s current view on this issue, he said that as well as being able to conduct marriages for their congregation, clergy should also be allowed to marry a same-sex partner if they wished.
Currently, according to canon law, no Church of England minister can bless or marry gay couples.
Following his declaration, more bishops came out in support of gay marriage. However, speaking of those he described as holding “more conservative positions”, the Bishop said that he did not want to see people feeling excluded as a result of any possible changes on the issue.
Church of England bishops are currently considering whether to recommend any changes to the centuries-old doctrine that only opposite-sex couples should marry.
Next February, the bishops will present their long-awaited findings to the General Synod. Their recommendations could pave the way for an historic vote, following decades of division.
Lord Williams, a Welsh Anglican bishop, theologian and poet, was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 2002 until March 2013 - when he was succeeded by the current head of the Church of England, the Most Rev Justin Welby.
His lecture will also discuss the role of faith in an increasingly secular modern world. It will accuse modern societies of settling for a "lukewarm tolerance" of religion, rendering it "a leisure activity".
“Modern societies have settled for a kind of lukewarm tolerance - a recognition that, within reasonable limits of public order, people may conduct whatever rituals they please, because none of this should impinge on the way they make significant decisions or order their civic and personal lives,” he will say.
His comments come after results from the census revealed that Christians now account for less than half of England and Wales's population for the first time in census history.
The Office for National Statistics results showed that 46.2 per cent of the population - 27.5 million people - described themselves as Christian in 2021. This marks a 13.1 percentage point decrease from 59.3 per cent in 2011, when 33.3 million people declared themselves to be Christian.
The Reith Lectures continue on Radio 4 and BBC Sounds on Wednesday, Dec 7 at 9am.