More conservative Christians have often charged that ecumenically-minded churches and theologians are indifferent to doctrine, aiming for a LCD theology. Ecumenical theologian James Wagner (in the 1963 collection The Challenge to Reunion) argues that the precise opposite is true:
“there is probably no group within the Christian fellowship throughout the world which takes Christian doctrine in general, distinctive doctrines of the denominational and confessional families in particular, more seriously than those who are interested in Christian union. Their position is, not that any doctrinal conviction is unimportant, but that all doctrinal convictions are important” (20-1).
The mutual deference toward other traditions doesn’t arise from indifference, but from “the more sensitive awareness we have acquired in the ecumenical process by which we appreciate each others’ distinctive viewpoints and recognize the contribution of depth and richness each has made to the common treasury of our faith.” In short, the goal is not lowest common denomination but the pursuit of “a growing doctrinal deposit deeper, richer and stronger because, as we are beginning to learn, every conviction for which someone, sometime, somewhere, has been willing to suffer loss is a conviction at the heart of which is truth without which our own faith is impoverished and incomplete” (21).
Ecumenical theologians don’t treat doctrine with indifference. But the key is: Neither do treat doctrinal distinctives as important only for those who hold them. Rather: If they are important to one, they are important to all.
No doubt that will sound condescending to some Orthodox Christians, as if he said “Paul too has some insight.” Be that as it may, Wagner’s point stands: Ecumenical passion is not at all incompatible with doctrinal seriousness. Quite the contrary.