“Sometime after World War II, during the reconstruction of Europe, the World Council of Churches wanted to see how its money was being spent in some remote parts of the Balkan peninsula. Accordingly, it dispatched John Mackie, who was then the president of the Church of Scotland, and two ministers from another rather severe and pietistic denomination, to take a jeep and travel to some of the villages where the funds were being disbursed.
“One afternoon Dr. Mackie and the other two clergymen went to call on the Orthodox priest in a small Greek village. The priest was overjoyed to see them, and was eager to pay his respects. Immediately, he produced a box of Havana cigars, a great treasure in those days, and offered each of his guests a cigar. Dr. Mackie took one, bit the end off, lit it, puffed a few puffs, and said how good it was. The other gentlemen look horrified and said, ‘No, thank you, we don’t smoke.’
“Realizing he had somehow offended the two who refused, the priest was anxious to make amends. So he excused himself and reappeared in a few minutes with a flagon of his choicest wine. Dr. Mackie took a glassful, sniffed it like a connoisseur, sipped it and praised its quality. Soon he asked for another glass. His companions, however, drew themselves back even more noticeably than before and said, ‘No, thank you, we don’t drink!’
“Later, when the three men were in the jeep again, making their way up a rough road out of the village, the two pious clergymen turned upon Dr. Mackie with a vengeance. ‘Dr. Mackie,’ they insisted, ‘do you mean to tell us that you are the president of the Church of Scotland and an officer of the World Council of Churches and you smoke and drink?’
“Dr. Mackie had had all he could take, and his Scottish temper got the better of him. ‘No, dammit, I don’t,’ he said, ‘but somebody had to be a Christian!'"
D.T. Niles, told at the sesquicentennial celebration of Princeton University; repeated by John Killinger, Pulpit Digest, July/August, 1992, pp. 12-13.
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