Underlying the controversy is the cemetery association. A few decades ago, members of the congregation formed the association — separate from the church — to ensure control of the cemetery stayed with descendants of those buried there. That means people can be members of the cemetery association but not active in the church. Another issue, according to 81-year-old Jerry Nolz, who has attended the church for nearly 60 years, is this: There are 33 acres of adjacent tillable land that belong to the cemetery association, worth $200,000 to $300,000 by some estimates.
“The cemetery owns the church, but the pastor wants the church to own the cemetery,” Nolz said. “That’s the bottom line.”
For the church’s old guard, there’s a simple solution: Hartung and his followers should leave Singsaas alone, form their own church with their own funds and their own building, and Singsaas’ old guard could re-start their congregation.
The cemetery association dispute has gone to court, with a hearing scheduled in South Dakota circuit court next week.