(ORLANDO, Fla.)—Reformed Theological Seminary is pleased to announce the opening of the Nicole Institute of Baptist Studies on its Orlando campus for the 2012-13 academic year. The Nicole Institute was named in honor of Dr. Roger Nicole, renown Reformed Baptist theologian who was a visiting faculty member on the Orlando campus from 1989-2000. He was part of a generation of scholars that led a renaissance of American evangelicalism in the mid-twentieth century. Dr. Nicole has long been regarded as one of the preeminent evangelical systematic theologians in North America.

This institute provides Baptist and baptistic students the opportunity to learn the riches of Reformed theology and piety while also developing a robust Baptist vision of the church and its ministry.  As such, it furthers the on-going mission of RTS: to prepare leaders for the church who are marked with “a mind for truth, and a heart for God.”  The institute was approved last spring by the executive committee of the board of RTS.

In announcing the institute’s launch, RTS Orlando President, Don Sweeting said, “RTS is unique as a seminary in that it is a non-denominational, yet confessional theological seminary that seeks to serve churches in all branches of evangelical Christianity.  The Nicole Institute of Baptist Studies will be an important part of our campus in training pastors and leaders for the global 21st century church.”

There are four primary aspects of this institute:
1)  The M.Div. track substitute courses along with occasional electives
2)  Campus visits by several Baptist pastors each year to interact with students about ministry
3)  A Spurgeon Lectureship held biannually on campus
4)  Mentoring partner churches at which these students could serve

The speaker for the inaugural Spurgeon Lectureship will be Dr. John Piper, popular author and pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in the Minneapolis area. The lecture, which is open to the public, will be Wednesday evening, April 10, 2013, on the RTS Orlando campus. Dr. Piper will speak on “The Life and Ministry of Charles Spurgeon.”

“To have John Piper speak on Spurgeon,” commented Sweeting, “well, it doesn’t get any better than that.  And we are thrilled with the guest faculty who will be with us for the opening of the Nicole Institute.”

RTS Orlando has posted the schedule for the initial core courses of the institute, which includes:
• Baptist Confessions (January 14-18, 2013) will be the first class offered in the January term and taught by Dr. Tom Nettles of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This class is a survey of the major Baptist confessions and their Reformed backgrounds.
• Baptist Theology of Ministry (January 6-10, 2014) will be taught the following January term by Dr. Tom Ascol, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Fla. and founder of the Baptist Founder’s Movement. The course seeks to familiarize students with different paradigms of Baptist ministry while promoting a Reformed Baptist understanding of the primacy of the church.
• Baptist Polity (January 13-17, 2014) will be taught by Dr. Samuel Waldron, currently on faculty at Midwest Center for Theological Studies and pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Owensboro, Ky. This course surveys different approaches to polity in Baptist life and seeks to promote a distinctively Reformed Baptist governance that is both biblical and practical.
• Baptist History (February 21-22, 2014) will be taught by Dr. Michael Haykin of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This is a survey of Baptist history from its English roots to present day American expressions.

The interim director of the Nicole Institute is Baptist pastor Andy Aikens, RTS Orlando alumnus and pastor of Grace Community Church in St. Cloud. Commenting on the institute Aikens said, “Ever since my days as a student under Dr. Nicole, I have dreamed of a more focused ministry to the Baptist students attending RTS. To that end, we have assembled some of the best Reformed Baptist pastors, theologians and historians to teach in this program.  In addition, we are enlisting gifted Reformed Baptist, independent, Acts 29, Evangelical Free and other pastors to mentor incoming students.  Join us as we seek to encourage and strengthen our Baptist and independent churches across Florida, the US, and around the world.”

Others have commended the new institute as well. “When I first heard about the inauguration of The Nicole Institute of Baptist Studies, my heart leapt,” says Nicole biographer Dr. David W. Bailey, author of Speaking the Truth in Love: The Life and Legacy of Roger Nicole. “Reformed students in the Baptist tradition will now have the advantages of an RTS education coupled with an emphasis on their own historical and doctrinal distinctives. Dr. Nicole loved Reformed Theological Seminary, and he loved Baptist students. Naming the institute for this beloved father in the faith is a testament to the Seminary’s enduring commitment to produce graduates who, like Roger Nicole, have ‘a mind for truth, and a heart for God.’”

RTS students such as Justin Taylor, well-known Gospel Coalition blogger, are equally as excited: “I thank God for the education I have receive at RTS, and I am thrilled at the launch of The Nicole Institute of Baptist Studies.”

The brochure for the institute may be accessed by going to the RTS website: www.rts.edu/orlando/nibs. For more information about the institute or to enroll to take classes, please contact the RTS Orlando Admissions office at admissions.orlando@rts.edu or call 407.366.9493.

The RTS Orlando campus, a graduate theological school, was established in 1989 in Maitland and moved to its permanent location on 65 acres on Long Lake in Oviedo, Fla., in 1999. It is one of several campuses in the RTS system, which was founded in 1966. RTS is one of the largest seminaries in the country with campuses in Atlanta, Charlotte, Houston, Jackson, Memphis, Orlando and Washington D.C., in addition to a virtual campus offering online classes.