This split, which I pointed out on my blog back in March 2006, along with some financial data about the U.S. group and some speculation about the causes, occurred in late 2005. In that post, I noted that certain information critical of other creationists (and convicted tax evader Kent Hovind in particular) had been removed from the U.S. group's site. A brochure from the CMI suggested that a difference of approach, including ethical considerations, was the primary reason for the split:
The AiG website was developed in the US and hosted there. It was largely dependent for its intellectual content on the scientists and thinkers in the parent corporation, in particular such as Dr Don Batten, Dr Jonathan Sarfati, and Dr Carl Wieland. These and other writers were heavily contributing to the site until late 2005/early 2006, when the US ministry withdrew themselves from the international ministry group (with the exception of the UK) with an expressed desire to operate autonomously, without e.g. website content being subject to an international representative system of checks/balances/peer review involving all the other offices bearing the same 'brand name'.The Australian group has long had a policy of publishing material critical of bad creationist work, and its journals have occasionally published some excellent debunkings of standard creationist arguments, such as the shrinking sun and moon dust arguments for a young earth. This apparently was considered by the U.S. group to be bad for business. (UPDATE: This was indeed a major issue in the dispute which led to the split. The Australian organization wanted more international control over the content of material to be distributed internationally, in the form of an international committee with votes weighted based on the size and seniority of the organization. The U.S. organization rejected this proposal, reserving most of the power to itself.)
At that time, in the midst of discussions about this and other differences in operating philosophy (not involving the statement of faith or similar), the Australian office was formally invited to form its own website. This required a new name to avoid confusion.
The four national ministries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa) which were committed to continuing their focus and operational ^Qteam^R philosophy, and to continuing to forge and strengthen a representative international ministry alliance structure (based on Proverbs 11:14), then rebranded as Creation Ministries International (CMI).
Roger Stanyard has proposed that the Australian methodology was not actually peer review, but a form of shakedown against creationist authors who didn't toe the group's party line. He attributes the breakdown to the handling of Dennis Petersen's book, Unlocking the Mysteries, which was making money for Answers in Genesis but was criticized by the Australians. While I agree that the Australians' peer review was less-than-stellar (in what it let pass through uncritically), my interactions with the leadership of that group lead me to believe that they are honest and ethical in their behavior (though wrong in their beliefs). (UPDATE: The removal of material criticizing the Petersen book from the Answers in Genesis website occurred after the split. Stanyard appears to base his account on John Mackay, a source of highly dubious quality.)
The new information on CMI's website consists of the following:
1. A letter dated November 15, 2006 (PDF), from CMI to Answers in Genesis setting forth their complaint about a November 1, 2006 letter from Answers in Genesis to the general public, which CMI considers defamatory.
2. An email of November 21, 2006, alerting a number of people to the previous item, which had so far been ignored.
3. A summary of an October 2005 memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the Australian and U.S. groups setting forth the conditions of their separation, explaining how it disadvantages the Australian group and why the Australian group's management attempted to reject and renegotiate it.
4. A section of the "Deed of Copyright License" (PDF) signed by the directors of both groups, with comments pointing out its unreasonable terms.
5. A PDF document setting forth a chronology of the relevant events.
6. The text of a letter from senior staff of the Australian group to their board of directors (PDF) prior to their trip to meet with the U.S. board, setting out their desired reforms.
As near as I can tell, the documents on the website suggest that the directors of the Australian group were induced to fly to the United States and sign the memorandum of agreement setting forth the terms of the separation of the groups without the knowledge of the management of the Australian group (e.g., Carl Wieland and the Australian staff). The MOA, drafted by the U.S. group's attorneys, set terms for the separation that were entirely favorable to the U.S. group. The Australian group's directors who signed the document then resigned en masse, under the condition that they be given indemnity for their actions--the letter suggests that they were in breach of their fiduciary duties to the Australian group for signing the agreements. (UPDATE: These Australian directors--John Thallon, Greg Peacock, Jim Kitson, and David Denner--asked for indemnity for their actions in return for their resignations after consulting with an attorney. Thallon then moved to Kentucky and is on the board of the U.S. group.)
The description of the MOA states that it gives perpetual license for all articles published by the Australian group's magazine and journal to the U.S. group, including the right to modify the articles and change the names of the authors, including a false statement that the authors had given permission for this. If anyone sues the U.S. group for copyright infringement, the Australian group agrees to pay all costs. All fees and costs for items are set unilaterally by the U.S. group, which the U.S. group has used to increase fees charged to the Australian group for materials (such as DVDs) by up to three times. The domain name answersingenesis.com, an asset of the Australian group, was transferred to the U.S. group, apparently without compensation.
Upon learning of these onerous terms, the Australian management attempted to reject the MOA and requested renegotiation of terms, to no avail; the U.S. group has refused to allow the participation of Carl Wieland in any negotiation.
In short, it looks like this was a struggle over money and control, with the Australian group out-maneuvered by the U.S. group. If the information in these documents is accurate--and I am inclined to believe that it is--it shows that Ken Ham's Answers in Genesis is as sleazy in its business dealings as it is in its misrepresentations of science.
I'll be digging further into this story... watch this blog for updates.
UPDATE (November 21, 2006): I've been informed by Carl Wieland that the page of documents on the website was not supposed to have been made available through the website, but only as individual items for recipients of the email referenced above as item 2 (and given below). The main page and several of the other items are no longer at the locations I had linked to, but I've updated the links based on the below email. Wieland has declined to comment on the actions or motivation of AiG, and expressed a desire to avoid anything that would be used "to smear all creation ministry in general."
The following is the text of that email:
Clarification re innuendo about CMI in email/letter from AiG-USA.
Sent 21 November 2006
From: the Board of Creation Ministries International (CMI)-publishers of Creation magazine (still available in the USA) and the Journal of Creation (formerly TJ) in Brisbane, Australia.
Dear colleague in creation outreach
We write this with considerable sadness. You are likely aware that there are some tensions between the ministries of CMI and AiG that go back some two years or so. We had hoped to be able to settle these peacefully, despite our ministry having suffered significant tangible losses at AiG's hands. We have repeatedly but unsuccessfully tried to get AiG to meet openly with all of us, or failing that, to have both our ministries submit to binding Christian arbitration to see things done justly.
We believe we have acted with considerable restraint in our public comments thus far, despite seriously provocative actions. These include substantial commercial ruthlessness against our ministry as part of what increasingly has the hallmarks of some sort of vendetta. Nevertheless, we have kept the details very quiet for a very long time, not wishing to cause harm or escalation, and hoping for 'peace with honour'.
A most unfortunate and unfair email
Unfortunately, a number of people have contacted us just now, saying they have received a brief email from AiG-USA's chairman (which we have seen) that casts serious slurs against our ministry. In effect, it engages in widespread public slander.
The email alleges that we have engaged in 'unbiblical' and 'factious' behaviour (a word applied in the NT to those who introduce doctrines contrary to the Gospel, and translated as 'heretic' in the KJV). This is an immensely serious and damaging allegation against an evangelical ministry and one that has not been substantiated, and is totally without foundation; our ministry's doctrine has not changed one iota, either in word or in practice.
The email also hints darkly at a 'spiritual problem' as a justification for their breaking off discussions with us. It also refers to a letter the AiG-Board sent us on November 1 to that effect, saying that that letter is available to enquirers upon request. That letter was essentially an expansion of their shorter email; it repeatedly affirmed their own righteousness, and that they were breaking off negotiations until we resolved our 'spiritual problems'. These 'problems' are not specified, which darkens the innuendo ('What? Who?').
Dismayed by this turn of events, we prepared a detailed response that was emailed to each of the Directors on AiG-USA's Board, on 15 November 2006. It outlined and clarified the issues in detail. In it we also pleaded for AiG to urgently withdraw from this action, giving them three days to respond-i.e. to contact us, to make some move to draw back from this abyss, to avoid us making our response public. We have received no response or acknowledgement from AiG, even to this date, some six days later.
Worldwide libel distribution
The same AiG email defaming our ministry has also been sent out by an Australian creationist running his own ministry, who had split with Ken Ham in 1986 (this man had been excommunicated by an Australian church, a still unresolved issue-see www.CreationOnTheWeb.com/mackay for Ken Ham's own words about the seriousness of these actions against our ministry and an individual at that time). So this defamation has been sent to a substantial worldwide email mailing list, which would include overlap with many of our own supporters. This AiG email was clearly sent to that 'distribution source' by AiG; the covering comments state that 'Ken Ham advises', and refer to AiG's permission for the recipient to spread it still further.
(The aim appears to be to encourage as many people as possible to lose confidence in our ministry, and of course AiG will have a commercial 'bonus' in that the more that are encouraged to 'enquire', the more email addresses they will have, making it easier to further undermine CMI ministry in this country.)
We deeply regret that AiG/Ken Ham have seen fit to engage in this most serious escalation. Even in the face of this defamation, our overwhelming preference would have been to have had AiG respond to our urgent letter, to continue talks in openness and light as the Scriptures enjoin us to do rather than for us to have to publically stand against the libel.
In the absence of any evidence of remorse or willingness to undo this most recent and grave public attempt to damage us, we solemnly, before the Lord, believe we now have no choice but to protect the public reputation of the ministry organisation that has been entrusted to us, in as dignified and God-honoring a way as we can.
So we have chosen in the first instance to provide, within this email, a website link (below) to the full text of our formal 15 November response to AiG, which should substantially clarify CMI's position.
Of course, we do not know who all the many folk to whom AiG's defamatory comments have been emailed are, or how many times it has multiplied on the internet. So we are sending this email you are reading to the following:
1) To any who actually enquire of us.
2) To our corporation's members (an outer layer of protection which holds the directors accountable), our staff and our volunteer workers/speakers, local reps, etc.
3) To the management of our four national affiliates (CMI offices in Canada, NZ, US and South Africa, as well as affiliates in the UK) for providing to their staff, so that they will be able to answer these allegations as they inevitably spread. Sadly, some mud always sticks, especially when it comes from a 'big name'.
4) To those we know of who are involved in creation outreach of any sort, since we are aware that at least some of these have been targeted with this AiG email and previous ones.
5) To any (including those within AiG itself) that we have reason to believe have been contacted by AiG with similar intent and have likely received similarly misleading statements and views.
Our letter of response to AiG is reproduced at this link on our site, www.CreationOnTheWeb.com/dispute
If you did not receive the AiG email, we ask for your compassionate understanding of the dilemma we were facing; we know from those who have already contacted us that it went out widely to creationists, but do not know exactly who did and didn't receive it.
This sorry development will bring shame on the Name of our Lord and Saviour, and give cause for the enemies of God to gloat. Would you please consider committing these matters, which also have the potential do damage to creation ministry in general (even more than has already occurred), to prayer.
Yours very sincerely in Christ,
The Board of Creation Ministries International Ltd. (Australia)
Mr. Kerry Boettcher (Chairman)
Mrs. Carolyn McPherson (Vice-Chairman)
Dr. Carl Wieland, M.B., B.S. (Managing Director)
Dr. Dave Christie, B.Com, M.Admin, Ph.D., FAICD, FIMC (Director)
Mr. Fang, Chang Sha B.Sc (hons), M.Sc. (Director)
Rev. Dr. Don Hardgrave, B.D, M.A., D.B.S., Dip. Theol, Dip. R.E. (Director)
UPDATE (November 21, 2006): I have inserted a number of minor clarifications and updates throughout the above text.
Creation Ministries International has a USA branch now, in Atlanta, Georgia, to ensure distribution of its materials in the United States. This means that they will be competing for dollars with Answers in Genesis of Kentucky.
UPDATE: The link above regarding defamatory material from John Mackay and background information about Mackay was a broken link that has now been corrected, and I've devoted a separate post to this issue. The information there shows why Mackay left the Creation Science Foundation in 1987, and raises concern about Mackay's image being rehabilitated without having retracted the charges that he brought in the past. Mackay has now been attacking Creation Ministries International and siding with Ham and Answers in Genesis in the dispute--Answers in Genesis must be questioning whether having Mackay as a friend is a benefit.
UPDATE (December 29, 2006): I've added a new item to the list of materials now available on the AiG website, which is the text of a letter from the staff of the Australian group to their own board of directors listing the items of reform that they wanted from the international organization (and AiG-U.S.). This letter was sent to the Australian board members a few days before their flight to the U.S. in October 2005, which resulted in the separation agreement.
The letter specifically called for the creation of a class of non-director membership for the non-profit, composed of eight people to be chosen from a list of 20 suggestions, independent of each other and not employees of the organization, to provide better oversight and to adjudicate disputes between the board and the CEO. This group of people is intended to be analogous to the shareholders of a public company. This mechanism has now been put in place at CMI in the wake of their split from AiG-U.S.