The Church in Egypt originated from the needs of British expatriates notably with the opening of the Suez canal in 1869. Building of the Church of St Mark in Alexandria was started in 1839 and a chaplain appointed in 1841.

While missionaries (German) came to Egypt in 1825 the Church Mission Society first appointed the Rev F.A. Klein in 1882 to Egypt, who worked among the poor in Cairo – work previously begun by Miss Mary Whatley. That year, the British occupied Egypt on the pretext of supporting the Khedive against the Nationalists led by Arabi and British presence increased thereafter. The first All Saints’ Church in Cairo was opened in 1878.

In 1888, Dr Frank Harpur arrived to establish medical work in Old Cairo and the Harpur Memorial Hospitals in Menouf and Sadat City are named after him. Under the Rev Adeney, the CMS appointed the Rev Douglas Thornton in 1898 and in 1899 the Rev Temple Gairdner to work among the people in Cairo. Both men had first to set about learning Arabic. Thornton took over the book shop previously run by Adeney and opened it up with a meeting room for discussions.

Rev F Adeney

Rev F Adeney

Dr Frank Harpur

Dr Frank Harpur

Rev Douglas M Thornton

Rev Douglas M Thornton

Canon W H T Gairdner

Canon W H T Gairdner

Later Thornton and Gairdner shared with their families the large house Bait Arabi Pasha. This became the CMS open house where meetings were held to promote dialogue and debate among Muslims and Christians. A child, who was 5 years old at the time, in later life remembered the ‘loud noise that came from the meeting room downstairs.’ In 1904 they started the Orient and Occident magazine which circulated from this house throughout Egypt and the Mid East .

Bait Arabi Pasha was pulled down circa 1911 and replaced by the much taller buildings of today. Its location is the triangle to the left of square Midan Falaki, on Sharia El Bustan (near to the American university of Cairo in the centre of the modern map of Cairo. ) Seephoto on ‘Early Evangelisation‘ page.

Gairdner expressed his aspirations thus:- “We need a song note in our message to the Muslims, not the dry, cracked note of disputation, but the song note of joyous witness, tender invitation.” Thornton died in Cairo aged 34 in 1907. Gairdner was joined in 1923 by Constance Padwick.

Gairdner issued a policy statement in 1923 (which had been followed in previous years) that: ” ……. the Anglican Church in Egypt …………. does not desire to draw adherents from either the Coptic or the Evangelical Churches. Those who, in sincerity, find the Anglican Church their spiritual home are welcome to join it, but the Church does not set out to gain their allegiance. Instead, it seeks to extend the right hand of fellowship to the Coptic Church so as to render it every possible form of service, and at the same time it strives for closer co-operation and greater unity between all the churches in Egypt.”

Gairdner developed an Arabic congregation at the Church of the Savior, in the district of Boulac where Girgis Bishai was the first Egyptian Anglican Priest. Sadly, Gairdner died in 1928 only aged 58 and the Church of Jesus the Light of the World was built in his memory in Old Cairo, next to the present day deaf school.

The church established a teacher training class, a small boarding school and two day schools for girls in Cairo, a boys’ day school in Old Cairo and a school for the daughters of the well-to-do in Helwan. Miss Elsie Anna Wood established an embroidery industry in Boulac in 1930. Schools and social work continue today.

Go HERE to see the Bishops of the Diocese from1920 to the present.

Photographs from the EDA Archives

These are just a selection of historical photographs from EDA’s extensive archives (which are yet to be digitized and catalogued fully). These archives have been used by a number of advanced degree students for research purposes.  Please contact us if you are interested in discussing use of these archives.

1924 group with Bishop Gwynne (centre) Canon Temple Gairdner (bottom far right)

1924 group with Bishop Llewellyn Gwynne (centre) Canon Temple Gairdner (bottom far right)

In Old Cairo 1954 - Archdeacon Shammas and Bishop Johnston

In Old Cairo 1954 – Archdeacon Shammas and Bishop Johnston with congregation

Alexandria School of Theology 2013

Alexandria School of Theology 2013


Discover more of the history of the Diocese of Egypt