Aix-en-Provence, France, with roots going back to the Etruscans, derives its modern name from Aquae Sextius, the waters of Sextius, a Roman Consul who arrived in 123 BC. It rapidly became a crossroads for trade and commerce. It became an archbishopric in 400 AD and is still today a major center for the Roman Catholic Church. From the 10th century onward, it was a government seat of considerable importance. In the 19th century major universities were established in Aix, including the Law School and its technical school, Arts et Métiers. Its most famous citizens include Paul Cézanne, Émile Zola, François Mignet, Darius Milhaud, and Joseph d’Arbaud.
The Reformed Seminary was established in 1940 at Aix, following the constitution of a new denomination, known as the Union Nationale des Églises Réformées Évangéliques, and soon with the adjective Indépendante added (UNEREI). It was the denominational seminary of this church body, set in the heart of the University of Aix-en-Provence. In the 1960s the seminary went virtually bankrupt, but was able to keep some of the property. Then, in 1974, it opened its doors again, but this time as a confessional seminary rather than a denominational one. Based on the Gallican Confession, it grew from sixteen students that first year to over one hundred today. At present one can obtain one of four different degrees, and the seminary produces a theological journal, La Revue Réformée. In addition, there is a full library, student dormitories, and a lovely chapel.
The Reformed Seminary in Aix-en-Provence was originally founded just before WW2, with the considerable help of Donald G. Barnhouse of Tenth Presbyterian Church. Dr. Barnhouse preached regularly in France and was able to help purchase the property on which it now stands. In 1974, the Seminary changed its charter and became an independent, confessional institution. The purpose was and is to train gospel ministers, as well as other leaders in Kingdom work. Originally the hope was to revitalize the Reformed Church of France with evangelical leadership. While that still remains a goal, today the Seminary has a broader purpose, namely to train leaders both for church renewal and for church planting.
Last year a marvelous new professor was added to the roster of instructors at Aix. Yannick Imbert, a Frenchman who just obtained his PhD from Westminster Theological Seminary, is teaching Apologetics and Church History. His interests are wide-ranging. They include expertise in the Reformation, in Van Til’s apologetics, and… English fantasy literature, especially the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings. You might ask how relevant this is to modern French culture? He answers, totally! It is the Christian culture of the British Isles which was able to produce such a literature, whereas the French culture of the Enlightenment did not, and has been suffering from this lack ever since.
As of February, 2011, the Reformed Seminary in Aix will change its name, from Faculté Libre de Théologie Réformée (FLTR) to Faculté Jean Calvin (FJC). 2009 saw the 500th anniversary celebration of the birth of the French reformer Calvin, and the whole country of France seemed to revel in rediscovering the great man. This new name more clearly identifies the Seminary with that heritage. Calvin, of course, would not have wanted his name to be used, but yet would have been pleased to see that his worldview is alive and well!
Besides supporting the seminary, the Huguenot Fellowship also supports the James M. Boice Chair of Practical Theology. Currently held by Frédéric Hamaan, the chair promotes biblical teaching as modelled by Dr. James Montgomery Boice. Formerly Senior Pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia and a Huguenot Board Member, Dr. Boice had a heart for the French people and the seminary.
The seminary publishes a quarterly newsletter which has been translated into English.
Faculté Jean Calvin Presentation