Reformed Theological Seminary: 50 years 1966-2016

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Reformed Theological Seminary is celebrating 50 years of preparing men and women for a lifetime of faithful ministry.

“The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

1 Timothy 1:5



50 Years of Growing Ministry

Look Back


In June 1963, Sam Patterson, pastor of French Camp Presbyterian Church, meets four other ministers in a Memphis hotel room to pray about the need to establish a new seminary. At that time there is no seminary in the southeastern United States holding to Biblical inerrancy. By meeting’s end, the seed for Reformed Theological Seminary is planted.


Rev. Sam Patterson approaches a young Jackson attorney, Erskine Wells, and asks for his help to start a new seminary. Erskine bursts into laughter, replying, “Sam, that’s ridiculous! We have no land, no buildings, no money, no library, no faculty, and no students.” Sam asks him, simply, “Erskine, how big is your God?” The only thing Erskine could say to a fellow like that is, “When do we start?”


Reformed Theological Seminary is started by a group of dedicated laymen that serve as original board members. From the start, these men play an active role in running the Seminary and institute cutting-edge policies that would “preserve an institution that would stand on the same theological truths and present the same gospel 100 years from its organization.” In September, 14 students attend the opening convocation of RTS, held at Westminster Presbyterian Church located 1 mile east of the campus.


Reformed Theological Seminary holds its first commencement ceremony. The graduating class of four, Tim Fortner, Johnny Long, Doug Miller, and Harris Langford. begin long and distinguished ministries. Commencement speaker Dr. Edmund P. Clowney, then president of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, urges the young school to persevere in its labors, hold to its high purpose of honoring Christ as Lord, and reform the church in accordance with His Word.


The campus expands to support a growing student body by adding new buildings to complement the White House, including a library and Grace Chapel. The Chapel was donated by founding board member, Bob Kennington, in memory of his wife Nancy. This stately yet simple structure has a distinct, raised pulpit signifying the lifting up of the Word of God.


Luder Whitlock transitions from faculty member to serve as the second President of RTS. Under his tenure, RTS experiences huge growth, transforming itself from regional seminary to one with a national presence.


RTS Bulletin launches as a quarterly newsletter to promote the Seminary and serve its constituency. Later, the RTS Bulletin becomes RTS Reformed Quarterly and now exists as the award-winning magazine, Ministry & Leadership.


RTS establishes its second campus in Orlando, Florida. At that time, Florida was the 4th most populous state in the country, and this campus was its first accredited, Protestant seminary. Some faculty and staff members move from Jackson to Orlando help plant this new campus. RTS Orlando is received with much celebration and with open arms from the church community.


Under the local leadership of Ric Cannada, RTS plants a second branch campus in Charlotte, North Carolina, serving a major stream of students in the Carolinas. This campus has modest beginnings but quickly grows, rounding out the “trinity” of campuses at RTS.


RTS begins offering distance education courses by mailing students recorded class lectures on cassette tapes and packaging them with printed workbooks. The popularity of these courses results in the establishment of the RTS Virtual campus. Today, the RTS Global Education Program offers three full degrees and serves students from all over the world.


The Board calls Ric Cannada to serve as the Chancellor of RTS. He carries the Seminary through an economic downturn and provides organizational leadership to an institution that now has six campuses with the additions of Atlanta and Washington D.C.


RTS launches an ambitious, 5-year, $75M capital campaign under the direction of Dr. Cannada. By building the endowment, the Seminary is moved to solid financial footing and is able to expand its operations in multiple campus locations.


The African American Leadership Initiative is created on the Jackson campus to support the breadth of multi-ethnic, urban, and African American ministries in the Jackson area. The initiative serves to recruit more African American seminary students and provides mentoring, modeling, fellowship, and scholarship. Members of the AALI learn how to apply the Gospel to the unique challenges and circumstances of ministry in a multi-ethnic, urban setting.


Dr. Ligon Duncan is inaugurated as the next Chancellor of RTS. He began serving as an RTS faculty member in 1990 and held the Senior Pastor role at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, MS for 17 years. His academic gifts, pastoral heart and global profile are the perfect skill set to lead the Seminary.


RTS begins teaching classes in New York City in partnership with Redeemer City to City ministry. The goal is to prepare future ministry leaders in the city for the city. The inaugural convocation to launch this exciting new venture was held led by Dr. Tim Keller, the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church of New York City and Ligon Duncan.


RTS reaches a historic milestone and celebrates God’s faithfulness of 50 years of preparing men and women for a lifetime of faithful ministry. RTS now has over 5,000 graduates from 77 denominations that are serving in over 80 different countries around the world. Please join us at the 50th Anniversary Celebration in Jackson, MS this October.

50 years of stories

Reflections on trusting, loving, and serving God at RTS

See the stories Submit your own

Submit your own
Adam Powers

Coming out of college eager to go to seminary to receive an MDiv, I looked around and chose RTS for two reasons. First, I wanted a school with a robust Reformed theology, and second, I knew whatever seminary I chose would largely guide my ministry for the rest of my life. Taking these two items into consideration, I was with only one choice: RTS. Rather than reshaping, reforming, or remaking the truth, I knew RTS would encourage me to remember the truth. This has been an enormous gift to me.

Adam Powers, MDIV,

Phillip Kyle Reed

I have been working at Voice of Calvary since 1975. We pioneered the first interracial church in Jackson and I was the founding pastor. In the early days, a professor from RTS, Dr. Paul Fowler, helped us write our church bylaws, as well as met with us on many occasions for support and counseling. I graduated with an M DIV in 1989, and I am still using all that I learned at RTS.

Phillip Kyle Reed, MDIV, 1989

Wes Van Fleet

I had the great honor of going through RTS Global while in full-time ministry. The commitment to train men and women to have a mind for truth and a heart for God was exceptional. One of my favorite parts of going to RTS while in full-time ministry was figuring out and applying the great truths I was studying in the context of people’s lives. This helped give depth to what I was studying and care for those I was shepherding through preaching and counseling. Thank you, RTS!

Wes Van Fleet, MABS, 2016

Kelly Jennings

My time at RTS taught me about relating to people. My relationship with my friends and family have been impacted greatly because of my time at RTS. I am able to see the impact of RTS mostly through the way that I relate to my wife and children. I seek to listen more and I seek to understand how God has wired them to think and see the world. Finally RTS taught me to be careful with the personality strengths that God has given me. I learned that they can easily become sinful if I am not careful.

Kelly Jennings, MAMFTC, 2014

Hunter Brewer

Three years ago, several churches came together in the mid-South (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, southern Missouri, and western Tennessee) to form the Mid-South PCA Church Planting Network under the leadership of Rev. Hunter Brewer (ministry coordinator). This Network now supports five church plants and has thirty partner churches. The influence of Reformed Theological Seminary is definitely present because the ministry coordinator and four of the five church planters are graduates of Jackson and Orlando!

Hunter Brewer, MDIV, 2003

Lee Hutchings

I knew I would receive a rigorous education, but I wasn’t expecting to find such a lasting community of friendships. My wife and I had only been married one year when we came to Reformed Theological Seminary. Not only did we form bonds with our peers in seminary, but our own marriage and family was encouraged and nurtured by living life together in community as well as the classroom. As a pastor, I cherish my friendships with brothers from RTS experiencing the same joys and challenges of shepherding Christ’s flock.

Lee Hutchings, MDIV, 2012

Wilson Shirley

When I was called to go to seminary, my wife and I needed an option that would allow us to be close to family and flexible for my full-time employment in the local church. The wisdom and teaching that I received from both campus and virtual professors was incredible. The ability to care for my family, serve in the local church, and pursue my studies was a great blessing. I heartily recommend Reformed Theological Seminary to anyone looking for a seminary that is faithful to the Scriptures and true to the Reformed faith.

Wilson Shirley, MDIV, 2010

Marti Witherow

I had just recently moved to the U.S. as a newlywed when I came across a brochure on the Marriage and Family Therapy program at Reformed Theological Seminary. As I was reading it, I realized that it offered the exact training and expertise that I had been looking for when I served as a missionary with Campus Crusade for Christ in their campus ministry. RTS offered an integrative program with abundant interaction with professors as well as hands-on clinical training.

Marti Witherow, MAMFTC, 2004

Joseph Wheat

Reformed Theological Seminary exceeded my expectations! There are several reasons for this. First was the level of seriousness and godliness the professors brought to their instruction. I wanted to be challenged, and found a whole new world of learning at RTS. I was surprised in how much they cared and wanted to know us. Second was the friendship of fellow students as we lived and learned together. Several remain friends to this day. Lastly was a great church, First Presbyterian, that modeled so many things so well.

Joseph Wheat, MDIV, 1988


Tell Your Story

Below you’ll find a questionnaire regarding your time at RTS. We’re looking for genuine answers that paint a substantive picture of the school. If possible, please avoid generic responses such as, “It was great! Learned a lot!” Provide context. Speak with emotion. Dig deep.

We want your insight to share the RTS story over the past 50 years as well as inspire the generations to come.

Thanks for your cooperation. We look forward to sharing your story.

  • Please select one question to answer in 500 characters or less.
  • Accepted file types: jpg, png.
    Please provide a photo during or near your time at RTS. We request that this not be a headshot, but an image that displays you in authentic ministry, training, or campus-life.




Travel Information

Hotel Accommodations

A number of special rates are available for those visiting Jackson for the RTS 50th Anniversary Celebration.
  • Hilton Jackson* (from $125)
    Book by 4pm on 9/14/16 using the code RTS10 online at or by calling 1-888-263-0524
  • Embassy Suites Ridgeland (from $139)
    Book by 9/6/16 using the code RTS online or by calling 601-607-7112
  • Hampton Inn Clinton (from $89)
    Book using code RTS by calling 601-925-9393
*The Hilton Jackson Hotel will be the venue for the RTS Celebration Dinner on Thursday, October 6th.


Jackson’s only commercial airport is the Medgar Evers Wiley International Airport. Book flights and learn more at

Ground Transportation

Car rental, cab service, and public transportation options are all available. Please click to find a list of great options for moving around the city.

RSVP and Registration for the RTS 50th Anniversary Celebration

October 6-7, 2016
Jackson, Mississippi

Please join us as Reformed Theological Seminary celebrates 50 years of preparing men and women for a lifetime of faithful ministry.

Schedule of Events

Thursday, October 6, 2016

6:00 p.m. Dinner (provided)
Keynote Address, Dr. Ligon Duncan III
Chancellor and CEO of
Reformed Theological Seminary

Location: The Hilton Jackson Hotel, Grand Ballroom
1001 E. County Line Road, Jackson MS

Attire: Dressy casual

Friday, October 7, 2016

  • 8:00 a.m. Coffee and Fellowship
  • 9:00 a.m. A Time of Reminiscing and Reflection with Ligon Duncan and Others
  • 11:15 a.m. Worship Service of Thanksgiving
  • 12:15 p.m. Picnic Lunch (provided)
  • 1:00 p.m. Campus Tours

Location: RTS Jackson Campus
5422 Clinton Blvd. Jackson, MS

Attire: Casual



Please contact Wanda Rushing at 601-923-1652 or for any questions or concerns. Click here for travel information.