Megachurch Pastor Dino Rizzo Returns to Ministry After Affair

Last September, I received some emails from various sources saying Dino Rizzo, pastor of Healing Place Church, had stepped down from his position as senior pastor because he was “spiritually depleted.” Digging into the story further, I found rumors of an affair between Dino and a young staff member in his church, Kaycee Morgan Smith. That explained the odd and abrupt manner which he left the church he founded. Further into my research, I found that Dino Rizzo’s mentor as a young pastor was none other than Jimmy Swaggart. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree, but Rizzo upgraded from prostitute to mistress.

Now "fallen" pastor Dino Rizzo graces a July 2012 issue of Charisma magazine
Now “fallen” pastor Dino Rizzo graces a July 2012 issue of Charisma magazine

According to a 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 remember 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.”

Like Jimmy Swaggart, Dino Rizzo temporarily stepped down from ministry, a move Church of the Highlands lead pastor, Chris Hodges, seems very proud of. Chris Hodges thinks people are dumb enough to believe that liars can be considered honorable men. In this recorded sermon, Chris Hodges introduces Dino Rizzo in his first time coming back to preaching: http://www.churchofthehighlands.com/media/message/how-to-come-back-to-the-father

Chris Hodges goes on to talk about how his church hired Dino to be on staff for one year to reintroduce him into ministry. Dino will be a “father” figure in ARC (Association of Related Churches) while they are “planting 100 new churches a year” according to Hodges.

Since writing my initial articles here, here and here on Dino Rizzo’s affair, many church members (current and former) have come forward to express how betrayed they feel by Rizzo and the church board. Rizzo’s actions, they felt, weren’t what ruined his reputation in their eyes: it was his dishonesty. Because he misrepresented his situation to the megachurch, several thousand people felt duped. Many have since sent me emails explaining why they left the church and how heartbreaking it was for them. I know the feeling–I worked for one of Dino Rizzo’s best friends and came to find out he lacked the integrity I once thought he had. What seems to happen in cases like Dino Rizzo and Jimmy Swaggart is the power and money (read: greed) are too delicious for them to give up, so they play the Humble Game for a year and then come back full force. Ask any Hollywood PR person what to do in a scandal and they’ll give you the same advice: “Go away for awhile and then return. The public has a short memory.”

Yet devoted Christians and church members don’t have a short memory because this week, once news started spreading about Dino’s return, I received email after email notifying me of his return. These are good-hearted men and women who helped build Healing Place Church and their ministries by hand and they feel betrayed. Rightly so. This must be why Jesus said the meek will inherit the Earth. The most important lesson I learned when leaving ministry was that the powerful and influential ministers of the world are usually the most disingenuous of us all.

So, without further ado, I give you Dino Rizzo, back in action at the Church of the Highlands in an August 7th sermon titled “How to Come Back to the Father.” (Insert eye roll.) How cliche of him.

On a personal note, I do feel sorry for Dino. As I watched him preach this sermon, I could tell he was scared: he was scared that people like me would be watching him, blogging about it. He was scared that no one would believe him anymore, no one would clap for him, no one would pay his gas bill or luxuries. He’s right to be scared. When I wrote my original stories about him, over 10,000 people shared them. Healing Place Church was at the time boasting an 8,000 member congregation. Church of the Highlands states Healing Place Church membership is now at 7,000. I think the word is out that he is a fraud.

Should Dino Rizzo be allowed to return to ministry? Do you think Chris Hodges explanation about the affair was sufficient enough? Do you think Dino can (or did) change? Is it just temporary? Let me know what you think in the comments.

On a related note, any tips or emails I receive on this story will remain 100% confidential and anonymous. You can send stories, tips or any other info to mycultlife AT gmail DOT com.

Related stories here:

Healing Place Pastor Founder Resigns; Affair Cover Up Suspected

Rizzo Resigns As Healing Place Pastor; Rumors Of Affair Surface

Dino Rizzo From Healing Place Church Puts His House Up For Sale

Here’s What People Are Saying About Dino Rizzo’s Affair Cover-Up

An Email from a Dino Rizzo Fan

Letters to Nowhere: Tim Delina, Dino Rizzo, Winkie Pratney

More on this subject: 

Dino Rizzo to Join the ARC Staff  (Press Release)- August 2013

Dino Rizzo’s First Sermon: “How to Come Back to the Father” – August 7, 2013

 

If you’re interested in watching the train wreck further, Dino will be speaking at Celebration Church on Sunday, August 11. You deserve to be informed.

 

12 thoughts on “Megachurch Pastor Dino Rizzo Returns to Ministry After Affair”

  1. Chris Hodges words were spin on the truth. It wasn’t a brief inappropriate friendship, she was a kept woman for quite some time. But at least Church of the highlands and ARC received spins on the truth, HPC received outright lies and cover up. I just wish Hodges and Rizzo had gotten up there and said “we made so many mistakes over this last year trying to handle this right but failing, I’m sorry, please forgive me.”

    1. I think that’s all anyone wants–some simple honesty. I would have a lot of respect for someone in Dino’s position if they just came clean and said what was on their mind instead of lying about it. Nobody respects a liar.

      1. Lisa says:
        August 9, 2013 at 8:49 am
        “I think that’s all anyone wants–some simple honesty. I would have a lot of respect for someone in Dino’s position if they just came clean and said what was on their mind instead of lying about it. Nobody respects a liar.”

        Then I guess it goes without saying. That you don’t have a lot of respect for our current President, nor many of our former Presidents as well?

        Pres Bush lied about Iraq’s ‘WMDs”and cost this nation a trillion dollars as well as over 9000 soldier’s lives and even more, maimed. President Obama is a highly trained, professional liar, who’s recent lie about Obamacare and its effects are on the verge of tanking an entire nation’s already fragile economy. Dino is small potatoes compared to the God of Liars.

        Pastor Dino lied, had an affair, blew Church money and caused a thousand or more people to leave HPC (including myself). As well as ruined his reputation. However, let’s compare all three of the above. Which incident has, is or is about to cause the most harm to society?

        I am in no way concerned, nor have any desire to clean up after old Dino. To each, his own. But I do still like him. Why? I guess because I can better relate to imperfection more easily than those who never make mistakes, and never lie.
        I can’t relate to the Gods of Virtue, like Presidents; Obama, Bush or Clinton. Remember Clinton? ” Now let me make this perfectly clear”. LOL!! OMG! He lied. On national television. And yet, he was not forced to step down, or even apologize for having lied. How come?

        In my opinion, people who do not believe in, nor worship God, usually hate God and those that do believe. So therefore, they leap at any opportunity to use shinning examples of Holy Men’s imperfections to prove their point. And what exactly is their point?
        ” I always tell the truth. I am smart. I am beautiful! I cannot tell a lie. I am a good person, and dog gone it! People like me!”- Al Franken

  2. As a former member of COTH of over 12 years, I am so disappointed w/ Chris and Dino for how they have handled this situation. No honesty whatsoever!! I feel so sorry for the people of HPC who were lied to, betrayed and told they weren’t getting any more explanation for his (Dino’s) resignation. Their (Chris, Dino and Co.) cover up only proves that they care more about Dino’s reputation and the reputation of ARC than they do about the people they serve.

  3. As a COTH member, I feel let down by the hiring of this man. We will be trying a new church next week. Likely not to return to COTH

    1. You people kill me. You are all the same. Religious, judgmental and full of hate. You go onto a forum or website looking for somewhere to spew your opinion. I am so glad that God does not consult people like you before He exercises His sovereignty or will. Whew!

      How in the world do you know this man’s heart??? I have never met him or plan to and I am not for him or against him, but I will tell you this: I don’t know his heart. I don’t know what he lives in or what kind of work God has done or could be doing within him. He might be a fraud or a coward or a hypocrite or a liar OR he might be real or repentant or restored or revived…I don’t know. But what i do know is that the Bible warns more about people like you more than a repentant or fallen saint.

      You are exactly what Jesus preached about in Luke 15 – the elder brother. But that is fine. You sit there and church hop or move your letter or share your narrow minded, shallow religious opinion on this article and give your intelligence away. But know that you don’t have the mind of God and you sure don’t have room to talk. At some point this month you have lusted, lied, coveted, swelled with pride, mocked, became lazy, put God last instead of first, messed up, made a mistake, etc…point is that you are made of the same stuff Dino is.

      Do Chris Hodges and “COTH” a favor and please leave. You are just a religious, self-righteous stump that will get in the way of what God is doing there.

  4. I have been a member of 2 different ARC churches and thankfully, neither are “mega churches”. Maybe that’s the issue, when you are seen as a God you think you are invincible. The woman he had the affair with has lost her faith and I am sure is depressed. Dino & family seem fine. That is truly sad. I am surprised that Chris has taken this path and is bringing Dino on. I know the smaller ARC churches have to be wondering what they’ve gotten into here with this group. I am thankful for my very humble pastors, they are normal people who actually care. I bet Dino was similar once. The damage is done. He’s preaching again. Hopefully the difference will be that people KNOW what he’s done and aren’t as foolish this time around.

    1. Here’s the deal, Chris Hodges, Stovall Weems, John Seibling all are members of “the family” and Dino is the Godfather. See, they owe him and he cashed in on the “Grace equity” he had stored up with them. He is the one who helped their churches get going, he’s the one who invested many times into their churches, he also has “covered” them when they fell or made mistakes in the past, so when it came time for him to need “covering” his boys were more then ready to step in and protect the godfather. It’s a very sick manipulation of how grace works. There were only a couple of people in that inner circle who could not be blackmailed into lying as covering up what happened and is still happening, and those people have either been let go (and had to sign confidentiality agreements) or quit. And isn’t it amazing that Kaycee has nothing to say about all this? Hasn’t worked since she left? It’s because they gave her a nice “severance package” AKA payed her to keep quiet.

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