Advocating the Reform of Reformed Missions in China

Cornelia Spencer’s !e Missionary


  • Frederick Hale



Published initially in New York in 1947, The Missionary by Cornelia Spencer (the pseudonym of Grace Yaukey) stands in a relatively long tradition of Englishlanguage fiction about foreign Christian missionary endeavours in China. It is a roman à thèse which advocates a fundamental shift of emphasis in the mission field from evangelism to social, and especially medical, ministry, especially in rural areas. Secondly, Spencer argued for recognition of especially the ethical precepts of Buddhism in an atmosphere of religious toleration. It is argued in the present article that the protagonist, a comparatively young American Reformed missionary named Daniel Eaton, is based on the endeavours of Spencer’s husband, Jesse Baer Yaukey, with whom she served in the small city then called Yochow but now known as Yueyang in Hunan province. The case for a change of emphasis in missionary work is related to the paradigm shift proposed in the well-known but controversial interdenominational report Re-!inking Missions: A Laymen’s Inquiry after One Hundred Years. However, with regard to the proposed emphasis on medical outreach, this had been a vital component of holistic ministry in China since the nineteenth century (though far more in ccities than in rural areas) and was quite well developed when Spencer and her husband were called to the !eld in 1924.