Leave no authority existing not responsible to the people. -Thomas Jefferson link
Recently, I was told by a reporter from World Magazine, "You don't look like a troublemaker." I have thought about those words quite bit in the last few days. I have always believed that churches and their pastors, for better or worse, are lights in this world. They vie for the attention of an increasingly secularized culture, asking people to "Look at us." "We will introduce you to Jesus." "We are the role models for the rest of you." So, the world looks to the light and sometimes sees things that are troubling. This video says it most clearly.
If a church, pastor or group is proud of their work, they will have no trouble being exposed to the light. The ones who are uncomfortable with the exposure need to consider why.
Who is Dino Rizzo and why is/was he (who the heck knows) on Steven Furtick's compensation committee?
From the Christian Post, 10/30/13 link we read that the 2012 Elevation annual report does not list the committee members.
The 2011 annual report also discloses the names of the men who comprise Elevation Church's Board of Elders:
"Pastor Dino Rizzo (Healing Place Church – Baton Rough, LA), Dr. Jack Graham (Prestonwood Baptist Church – Plano, TX), Pastor Perry Noble (Newspring Church – Anderson, SC), Pastor Kevin Gerald (Champions Centre – Seattle, WA), Pastor Stovall Weems (Celebration Church – Jacksonville, FL), [and] Pastor Steven also serves on the Board, but does not vote on his salary."
Also, it is strongly suggested by a number of sources that Pastor Steven gets to pick who serves on his compensation committee. From the same Christian Post article:
The Board of Overseers members were personally recruited by Pastor Furtick
In my opinion, it is not unreasonable to assume that Furtick made quite sure that the pastors who would approve his salary are pastors like him. That is, he wants high living pastors who are making bank on their affiliation as lead pastors in churches. For example, another committee member, Stovall Weems, lives quite well in the Jacksonville area in a house assessed at over $800,000. Here is a link to the City of Jacksonville's Property Appraiser's Office. Check for the listing under Charles S Weems IV.
So what's the deal with Dino? He is no longer at the church he founded, Healing Place Church (HPC) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Sometime in the summer of 2012, Rizzo stepped down from his pastorate and the reasons given for this move are a bit sketchy. Here is a report from Charisma News.
"I have not felt myself, spiritually, physically or emotionally for several months now,” says Rizzo, senior pastor of Healing Place Church. "My physically exhausted, spiritually depleted state has affected my decision-making, my family life and my ability to lead effectively."
Apprising Ministries added this tidbit.
The Rizzos took a leave of absence in late July at the behest of the church’s spirituality board because they needed “a sabbatical rest for healing, reflection and restoration of spirit, soul and body,” according to a statement from the board…
The Christian Post chimed in with this. Look carefully at the last two paragraphs. The Healing Place has "overseers?"
Rizzo told the congregation on Sunday, according to The Advocate, that he has "needed a lot of mercy and a lot of grace" over the last couple of months. "To those I have disappointed, I want to say forgive me. I'm sorry if I've ever disappointed you as pastor."
Though many in the church were shocked, Chris Hodges,(ed. note:pastor of the Highlands in Birmingham) one of Healing Place Church's overseers, indicated to the congregation that no additional details would be given about the Rizzos.
"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, according to The Advocate. "We're going to take care of them and we're going to take care of you. Trust me."
Before we get to the "Overseers", let's take a look at a couple of other pieces of information.
As usual, there is more to this story and, unfortunately, it is the same old, same old. It appears that Rizzo resigned when an affair with a church employee came to light. Here is the story from My Cult Life. It does not appear that Rizzo stepped down "voluntarily" (as was said in the statement). It does appear that the real issues in this story were concealed from the church members. We will answer who may have concealed it momentarily.
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
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.
As Dino and his wife were spirited out of town, his house was put up for sale. Folks, ya gotta love it! This has to be why Dino was on the compensation committee. Here is link to his humble abode. Furthermore, it does appear that Dino and Delynn Rizzo's names are still tied financially to the ministry and its finances link.
What Healing Place church members don’t know is that Dino Rizzo is still listed as an officer. According to the Secretary of State’s site, there have been no amendments to any of the non-profits listed removing Dino or DeLynn Rizzo. In fact, no changes have been made since 2009. If Dino had really resigned, wouldn’t he have been removed from HPC and the ministries entirely?
Dee has a big question. Why are so many non-profits and church ownership often tied up with the names of pastors? Thoughts, anyone?
- Dino had an affair.
- Dino stepped down and did not cop to the affair.
- Dino lived quite well.
Whoops, almost forgot. Here is a tweet from Steven Furtick on the matter link.
Several well-known evangelical leaders have offered their support for the Rizzos via Twitter since their resignation.
We love you "@dinorizzo & @delynnrizzo," tweeted Steven Furtick, lead pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, N.C.
So, who is this Chris Hodges and why should we trust him with the Dino and Delynn Rizzo comeback tour?
From the Apprising Ministries link above we read the following statement to the Healing Place congregation by Chris Hodges
“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.” (source)
Translation: Don't ask because we won't tell. In other words, the people, who got sucked into Healing Place Church and got healing by giving tons of dough to the church, have absolutely no right to know anything. This outside group is going to "take care of it" and the church members are told to "trust them." Doesn't anyone stand up and ask why in the world should they "trust" these outsiders?
What is the ARC?
Did you know that Acts 29, the Resurgence, and The Gospel Coalition are not the only games in town? These pastor sponsored groups are proliferating. Welcome to the ARC, an Association of Relational Churches link.
We are an association of relational churches working with church planters and church leaders to provide support, guidance and resources to launch and grow life-giving churches.
On the surface , this appears to be a group that helps pastors start churches. Headed by Greg Surratt, the six founders of this group include Chris Hodges and Dino Rizzo link. So, the plot thickens. (As an aside, TWW has been informed, by a reliable source, that Chris Hodges, head pastor of The Highlands in the Birmingham area, also lives very, very well.)
According to their website link, there is definitely some money in play here.
The organization maintains an annual funding base of $2 million dollars with ARC churches giving over $8 million a year to missions. Today, over 400 churches strong, ARC has become not only a movement, but a collection of many “tribes” – all with a focus of planting those 2000 churches and impacting the world!
How does ARC work? Do they control the local church?
ARC appears to have some "authority" over the local church link. Per usual in these sorts of group, that authority is not defined.
Each member church shall have self-governing privileges in harmony with the authority and vision of the Leadership Team of ARC.
Also, note that in this section of their bylaws, it seems to give "authority" over "endowments for special purposes." Once again, it is ill-defined.
The Board of Directors may establish on behalf of the ARC any endowments for the general purposes or for any special purpose of the ARC.
For Elevation members, it might be of note that Stovall Weems, another member of Furtick's board, is also a member of the Arc's Board of Directors link. So, he is a double overseer. How cool is that?
To prove just how much power ARC has over the HPC, and most likely other member churches, read this straight from the ARC.
In May of 2013 the Overseers of HPC, along with the church Trustees and Elders, installed Mike Haman to be the new senior pastor. Mike was already serving in a senior role and has been a spiritual son to Pastor Dino for many years.
Did you catch is? The "Overseers", listed first, along with the elders installed the next pastor of Healing Place!
So how did the ARC handle Dino, one of their ARC founding buddies?
Very, very well. Would it surprise you to know that Dino is back preaching? Finally, the ARC admitted that Rizzo had a "brief" (whatever that means) "inappropriate" (whatever that means) relationship with a woman. Once again, read about their authority link
When the situation came to light, the Overseers of the church – including Chris Hodges, Rob Ketterling, John Siebeling and Stovall Weems – assumed responsibility to guide the church and the Rizzo's to healing and restoration.
But, there appears to be some pushback about the definition of "brief" link.
The affair between Kaycee Morgan Smith and Dino Rizzo wasn’t short-lived, nor was it an inappropriate friendship. It lasted at least a year and sources say that he furnished her with a luxury apartment during that time in Perkins Rowe.
What about her salary? Kaycee was indeed on the HPC staff and it’s rumored she made quite a large salary; more than some pastors at the same church. Kaycee played the role of Dino’s personal assistant when they traveled the world. He requested her to go on trips.
So how did this all get exposed after Dino had clearly hidden it for a year? Someone found texts between Dino and Kaycee on Dino’s phone. The person confronted Dino about them and Dino in turn, said it was none of his business and threatened him. The person went further, though, and spoke up to the church presbyters who turned a deaf ear. It’s no coincidence that DeLynn Rizzo’s father, Wayne Austin, was one of the three presbyters that were told that day. Wayne Austin was also the marriage counselor Chris Hodges mentioned in his sermon last Wednesday that ‘restored Dino and DeLynn.’
There also seems to be some equivocating on the nature of the relationship. Chris Hodges told AL.com that the Overseers are in charge and that is was a "friendship."
it was during that time that Dino got involved in the early stages of a brief but inappropriate friendship with another woman. When the situation came to light, I and the other overseers at HPC got involved. It was our responsibility. We guided the church over the past year through healing and restoration."
Once again, who is running the show? It is definitely not the people who gave money and time to HPC.
So, the question remains: Should you trust the Overseers to tell the full story or give it a light touch because, after all, he is one of theirs?
They determined this "punishment" for Rizzo link.
They also felt it was important for him to step down from public ministry for one year, followed by a year of supervised ministry before he would be considered fully restored. The list of personal benchmarks that Dino was asked to fulfill was thirty-one items long and over the past year, he and Delynn have accomplished each one of them.
There are obvious questions that should be answered. Did he get paid during this time? What do they mean by "public" ministry?
Dino now gets to hang out with his BFF, Chris Hodges at The Highlands!
Guess what? Dino now has two jobs. And all is well, neatly handled, not by the church, but by the
Dino and Delynn will be moving to Birmingham for the next year of supervised ministry. Dino will be serving on staff at Church of the Highlands for one year and also serving part-time for the ARC (Association of Related Churches) assisting the team in providing pastoral care for the hundreds of church planters that have planted through the ARC.
In July, the ARC board of directors met for our annual board meeting and – based on the recommendation of the Overseers – formally installed Dino back into this season of ministry.
Steven Furtick and his church are not currently members of the ARC. But, Furtick has been known to speak at their functions link and has two members of the ARC's Board of Directors on his compensation committee. Elevation has even adopted the lingo link.
…who controls the compensation of the Executive Staff? The answer to that question was “The board of Overseers sets Pastor Steven’s salary.The third question asked was who approves the “major” purchases. The answer to this question was “All purchases over $1 million must be approved by the Board of Overseers. The board also approves an annual capital budget to guide annual capital expenditures. Each ministry department head approves all other purchasing within their department and budgets are reviewed monthly”.
In the end, it does not surprise me that members of Elevation have little say in the matter of how their church is run or their pastor is paid. They, too, are firmly in the hands of Overseers who live well and take care of their own.
Stop Giving Money Until They Treat You Like an Adult
I have one piece of advice for those of you who believe that members should have some say in their church. Stop giving money until you are treated like you actually matter to the juggernaut. Oh yeah, ask yourself this question. If you did something like this, do you think the ARC would swoop in to take care of you? If not, why not? You are, after all, the one who is giving the money…
Lydia's Corner: Ecclesiastes 10:1-12:14 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 Psalm 49:1-20 Proverbs 22:20-21