Gairdner, W. H. T. (William Henry Temple), 1873-1928

Church Missionary Society missionary in Egypt

Gairdner, a seminal figure in Christian-Muslim relations, was equipped with singular gifts of imagination and pastoral energy. The son of a distinguished professor of medicine at the University of Glasgow, Gairdner came to evangelical faith and missionary vocation at Oxford. Cairo was his sphere of service from 1899-1928, except for brief periods of study leave at the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference of 1910 (on which he wrote a telling report) and at Hartford Seminary, where his mentor was Duncan Black Macdonald.

Despite administrative duties and the loss of Douglas Thornton, his early colleague, Gairdner “fulfilled the gospel” in sustained ventures of mind and pen. Tireless in conversation, he grew steadily more perceptive about communication with the Muslim community. The journal Orient and Occident was his lively forum. Against much opposition, he pioneered the use of drama and he wrote plays on biblical themes and Arabic commentaries in the style of the Muslim exegete Al-Baidawi (1226-1260). Applying his musical skills, he combined Egyptian lyrics and Christian hymnology. After his death at the height of his powers, the Church of Jesus, Light of the World was built and dedicated to his memory in Old Cairo.

Kenneth Cragg, “Gairdner, W(illiam) H(enry) T(emple),” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 233-34.

This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.


Digital Texts

Gairdner, W. H. T. D. M. Thornton: A Study in Missionary Ideals and MethodsLondon: Hodder and Stoughton, 1908.

_____. “Edinburgh 1910″: An Account and Interpretation of the World Missionary Conference. Edinburgh; London: Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier, 1910.

_____. The Reproach of Islam. London: Church Missionary Society, 1909. (had several editions prior to the fifth (1920), when “Reproach” became “Rebuke,” to move the onus more squarely onto Christians)


Gairdner, W.H. T. W. H. T. G. to His Friends: Some letters and Informal Writings of Canon W.H. Temple Gairdner of Cairo, 1873-1928. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1930.


Padwick, Constance E. Temple Gairdner of Cairo. London, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1929. (appendix lists his plays and pamphlets and works in Arabic)

Vander Werff, Lyle L. Christian Mission to Muslims: The Record. South Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library, 1977. Pp. 184-224, 279-282.

Photographs of Gairdner, as a young priest and middle aged canon, can be seen at the website of the Egypt Diocesan Association (EDA).