Houston Megachurch Pastor Joel Osteen Responds to Critics; Church Provides Shelter

Osteen was criticized for not making Lakewood Church a shelter sooner. But church members insist the building was flooded.

By Liberty McArtor Published on August 29, 2017

Criticism of televangelist and author Joel Osteen went viral on social media starting Sunday. Many accused the Houston-based Osteen of closing the doors of his massive Lakewood Church to victims of Hurricane Harvey. 

Southeast Texas has received near non-stop rain from the hurricane-turned-tropical storm. Parts of Houston have received 40 inches of rain. Officials believe the area could see several more inches by the end of the week. Rescue workers, including volunteers, are overwhelmed with calls for help. Many people remain stranded on rooftops, second stories and in deep water.

On Sunday, Lakewood Church posted a list of Houston-area shelters on Facebook. According to the post, the church was “inaccessible due to severe flooding.” The church is a converted NBA arena and seats nearly 17,000 people. It is the nation’s largest church facility.

Social media judgment exploded. Several Twitter users posted photos and videos apparently showing that Lakewood Church was not flooded.

https://twitter.com/cmclymer/status/902204084597469184?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.faithwire.com%2F2017%2F08%2F29%2Fhere-is-the-complete-story-behind-the-attacks-on-joel-osteens-lakewood-church%2F

https://twitter.com/cmclymer/status/902315827042689024

The church in turn provided photos to the media. They show flooding in parts of the building. But social media critics continued to dispute their veracity.

On Monday afternoon, Osteen tweeted that Lakewood Church was partnering with Samaritan’s Purse to help Harvey victims. The link Osteen tweeted leads to a page where people can register to volunteer or donate.

Late Monday night, Lakewood Church tweeted that it would be collecting supplies like diapers and baby food starting at noon on Tuesday. Late Tuesday morning, the church tweeted that it is “receiving people who need shelter.”

On Monday night, Lakewood spokesman Don Iloff told Faithwire the church had always planned to help and had been working with city officials. Iloff added that the building had a history of flooding, especially on the first floor. 

In a statement, Osteen said “we have never closed our doors.”

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