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William Henry Temple Gairdner
1873 to 1928
Church Missionary Society
Egypt

William Henry Temple Gairdner was a 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 to 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 to 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


Bibliography:

W. H. Temple Gairdner, The Reproach of Islam (1909), had several editions prior to the fifth (1920), when "Reproach" became "Rebuke," to move the onus more squarely onto Christians. Also by Gairdner: W.H.T.G. to His Friends (1930; letters) and The Value of Christianity and Islam (with W. A. Eddy, 1927). Constance E. Padwick, Temple Gairdner of Cairo (1929; appendix lists his plays and pamphlets and works in Arabic); Lyle L. Vander Werff, Christian Mission to Muslims: The Record (1977), pp. 184-224 and 279-282.


This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.