Author’s note: For most recent updates, scroll to the bottom.
In July, it was reported that mega church pastor Dino Rizzo was going on a sabbatical.
According to The Advocate, Dino Rizzo, lead pastor and founder of Healing Place Church announced Sunday that he and his wife are leaving the church.
“We feel it is best that we step down as pastors today,” Dino Rizzo told several thousand church members gathered in the spacious arena sanctuary during the first of two Sunday morning services.
“Two months ago,” Rizzo said, “I let my spirit, soul and body get depleted and did not make good choices as a dad, as a husband, as a leader.”
Dino is also quoted as saying he stepped down voluntarily, which contradicts reports that a newly established church board had asked him to step down. On July 25, 2012, the following was reported by news channel WAFB,
The church issued a statement Tuesday saying that the Healing Place spirituality board determined that Rizzo needed the sabbatical.
The church statement says Rizzo has “humbly and willingly embraced the board’s plan.”
The Advocate quoted long-standing church member Brian McCollister who suggests the public take this resignation as face value.
“There will be tons of rumors circulating, but it’s none of anybody’s business,” McCollister said. “My heart is broken for them and their family. God can see the end from the beginning and this was no surprise to him. The decision they made was between them and God.”
However, rumors have circulating since late July on Louisiana message boards that Rizzo was having an affair with a former intern. What’s worse is, the church board allegedly paid the young woman to move back to her home state to cover the incident up, which was not originally Louisiana, according to sources.
Commenter “RedStickNative” shares sentiments with those on the message boards:
The article plainly says “Two months ago,” Rizzo said, “I let my spirit, soul and body get depleted and did not make good choices as a dad, as a husband, as a leader.” There is little doubt this pastor is running from a heinous scandal if facts were made public. What these men want is power and easy money and they are no different than any con man anywhere preying on the weak and guillable. Their product is invisible and the payoff is promised to come after you die and can’t get your money back. FYI that’s my opinion and you obviously don’t have to agree but this sort of thing happens all over the country all the time.
According to local sources, it seems RedStickNative has hit the proverbial nail on the head.
Could this be just another Jim Bakker/Jessica Hahn story?
Update 9/17/12: Clarification on why the girl was sent back to her homestate: It was to cover up the incident.
Update 9/17/12 1:23 pm: (Because the entire message board is a great read)
Update 9/17/12 1:32 pm: Tiger Droppings has named the alleged woman involved. According to the message board, Healing Place Church removed her name and image from the website. The Wayback Machine still has proof, though.
Update 9/17/12 2:06 pm: Local church leaders were informed on Sunday of the inappropriate relationship with a staff member. Leaders were informed that Dino would read a statement about the infidelity on Sunday, but he did not.
Update 9/17/12 4:00 pm: Many of you have been around since this blog began in 2010. Some of you are new. For those who aren’t aware, I worked at Our Savior’s Church in Lafayette, LA as the assistant to Daniel Jones. Dino Rizzo and Jones are very good friends and formed the Pastor’s Relief Commission which received a lot of money for Hurricane Katrina funds. When I started blogging, I received a lot of reports about the abusive nature of Jones’s ministry, so I did what I thought was right at the time. I emailed Jones’s closest friends, asking them to please put a stop to the abuse. Dino Rizzo was one such friend I emailed. Here are the contents of the letter, which was never responded to. It shows me that Dino’s ethical indescretions were always present–not a recent occurance from being “tired.”
Update 9/18/12 12:38 pm: According to the Louisiana Secretary of State website, Dino and DeLynn Rizzo are listed as officers, vice-president, treasurer (and other titles) to sixteen different non-profit ministry organizations.
The first corporation on the list is listed as “not in good standing for failure to file an annual report” according to the Secretary of State’s website.
Read more here.
Screenshots from the Secretary of State website (click image to enlarge):
Update 9/19/12 10:07 am: Dino Rizzo’s ministry career first began under none other than Jimmy Swaggart ministries according to Charisma News article ran in July, 2012:
As a 23-year-old Dino worked under Baton Rouge icon Jimmy Swaggart as a youth pastor and ran the televangelist’s $300,000-a-month, 30-vehicle bus ministry. He’d been saved in a Word-Faith church in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and at Swaggart’s Bible college, Dino began to merge the bold faith he saw modeled around him with the burning passion he’d always had to reach those less fortunate.
You may rememeber Jimmy Swaggart from his sex scandal with a prostitute:
On October 11, 1991, Swaggart for a second time was found in the company of a prostitute, Rosemary Garcia, when he was pulled over by the California Highway Patrol in Indio, California, for driving on the wrong side of the road. According to Garcia, Swaggart stopped to proposition her on the side of the road. When the patrolman asked Garcia why she was with Swaggart, she replied, “He asked me for sex. I mean, that’s why he stopped me. That’s what I do. I’m a prostitute.” This time, rather than confessing to his congregation, Swaggart told those at Family Worship Center that “The Lord told me it’s flat none of your business.” Swaggart’s son Donnie then announced to the stunned audience that his father would be temporarily stepping down as head of Jimmy Swaggart Ministries for “a time of healing and counseling.”
What’s important to remember is that Jimmy Swaggart only temporarily stepped down from their ministries.
Sexual scandals in the late 1980s and early 1990’s led the Assemblies of God to defrock him, and to his temporarily stepping down as the head of Jimmy Swaggert Ministries.
Take a look at Healing Place Church website today and you can see that even though Dino officially “resigned” his photo is still up as pastor:
And you all know where Jimmy Swaggart Ministries makes their home, right? Baton Rouge.
Update 9/20/12 12:13 pm: I’ve had a lot of requests for my personal information and location from Healing Place Church members. As a matter of privacy and safety, I don’t give out personal information or disclose my location. I am keeping documenting suspicious emails, comments and Facebook requests including IP address and your location info in the event I feel my safety is in danger.
Update 9/21/12 1:30 pm: Someone attempted to hack into my website yesterday afternoon. I think it’s fair to assume that the hack is related to the HPC/Dino Rizzo story.
This was emailed to me today:
Update 9/21/12 2:01 pm:
From The Advocate revisited (emphasis my own):
“It’s okay to be sad but don’t be overwhelmed by sorrow or try to read between the lines,” The Rev. Chris Hodges, one of the Healing Place Church’s overseers and pastor of Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Ala., told the congregation.
“I know you want more than what’s being said here today — but can you be OK that the seven of us (overseers) know?” Hodges asked. “We’re going to take care of them and we’re going to take care of you. Trust me.”
The seven overseers, mostly from out of state, attended the service Sunday.
From the July story from The Advocate (emphasis my own):
Rizzo “has humbly and willingly embraced the board’s plan,” the church’s statement said, adding that a length for the sabbatical has not been determined. “That will depend on the healing process.”
Rizzo was not available for further comment and a personal cell phone number for him was no longer working.
Church officials also didn’t respond to follow up phone calls and emails on Wednesday afternoon, and there was no explanation on the church’s web site, or Rizzo’s own web site, his Twitter account or his Facebook page.
Healing Place on Palm Sunday of 2010, celebrated the opening of a spacious,modern arena on the church’s 56-acre campus located at 1902 Highland Road. The $28 million, 126,000 square-foot building features the latest in technology and seats 3,000 in its multi-purpose sanctuary.
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