The Singsaas Church controversy - who owns the building?

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At historic country church, fiery fundamentalists pitted against old guard

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.


Pastor Jason grew up near Elkton, SD on a small farm. He began his college career at Northland International University and then received his degree in Theology from Ambassador College in 2000. Over the years, he has had the privilege of spending time outside of the U.S. on several mission fields helping plant churches. In addition to his love for missions, he has been a bi-vocational youth pastor, associate pastor and senior pastor across the state of SD. Pastor Jason and His wife Ashley were married on August 10, 2002. They have seven children and have had the privilege of adopting six of their seven. Over the course of the past 15 years, Pastor Jason and Ashley have fostered many children and are currently a Safe Family for children in need of a temporary home. Pastor Jason would love the opportunity to encourage you to have a closer walk with God.

The Star Tribune article is behind a paywall. Here is a free article. I find this quote from the article quite revealing as well because it suggests that the church can continue to meet even if someone else owns the property.

In 1996 the Singsaas congregation and the cemetery association signed a 99-year agreement in which the congregation pays rent by covering the cost of insurance and maintenance.

There is also a debate now about who is actually a board member of the cemetery association and who gets to elect the board. I think that is really at the core of the issue. There is no debate about if the cemetery association owns the property, the debate is over who represents the cemetery association and if the cemetery association has to honor their lease agreement.

Here is the link to the article. From what I know about the situation I believe this article seems much more fair than some of the other reporting I have heard (I live within about an hour and a half of Singsaas).