The megachurch run by multimillionaire televangelist Joel Osteen has said it did open its doors to flood-stricken Texans, despite claims made yesterday.
As Hurricane Harvey has dumped feet of rain on southeast Texas, claims emerged that his Lakewood church – which can house as many as 17,000 people – was staying shut to the displaced residents.
‘We have never closed our doors. We will continue to be a distribution center for those in need,’ church spokesman and Osteen’s father-in-law, Donald Iloff, told CNN.
However, he said that the church would not be taking in people seeking shelter until other places were full up.
That was then contradicted in turn by Osteen himself, who tweeted: ‘Victoria and I care deeply about our fellow Houstonians. Lakewood’s doors are open and we are receiving anyone who needs shelter.’
Pastor Joel Osteen (pictured) has been hit with criticism after he closed his Lakewood church due to the severe floods that have hit Texas; he says it’s now open again
Osteen’s church was initially only going to accept people once other shelters were full, a spokesman said. But now the televangelist says it’s ‘receiving anyone who needs shelter’
‘We are prepared to shelter people once the cities and county shelters reach capacity,’ Iloff said.
‘Lakewood will be a value to the community in the aftermath of this storm in helping our fellow citizens rebuild their lives.’
He said that at least three people went to the church before they were taken to the George Brown Convention Center.
He also released photos of the church during the flooding, including corridors knee-deep in water and a water-slick lobby.
Iloff said that those waters had already receded, however, and that it would be open around noon. He said it would also act as a donation center.
He said at least several hundred people could be housed on the building’s second floor.
On Monday the official Lakewood Church Facebook page said that the church was ‘inaccessible due to severe flooding.’
The post began with: ‘Our hearts are breaking as we see the images of the damage and destruction in our city and the surrounding areas from Hurricane Harvey.
‘We are praying for everyone’s safety in Houston and Texas. As a community we can help each other get through this storm.
‘We appreciate your prayers, both for our city and for Lakewood Church. We are working diligently with the city of Houston to mobilize our many volunteers at shelters around the city as well as various other points of need in and around the Houston area.’
He posted an official statement on Facebook that it was ‘inaccessible due to severe flooding’
Osteen’s 17,000-seat Lakewood Church in Houston isn’t opening its doors for rescue efforts because floodwaters just won’t allow it, according to televangelist
His thoughtful wishes on social media weren’t well received by users who blasted him on Monday for merely sending out prayers and thoughts rather than offering to donate money.
‘You have taken so much money away from your people to live like a king,’ entertainment publicist Danny Deraney said. ‘It’s the least you could do.’
Writer and reporter Eoin Higgins wrote on Twitter: ‘Nice of @JoelOsteen to open his 16,000 seat mega church in Houston to floor victims. Lol jk he’s not doing that.’
Social media users also complained that the pastor – who has an estimated net worth north of $50 million – could help by allowing thousands to shelter in his church.
Those complaints came before the photos of the flooded areas were made public.
The storm and ensuing flooding have left at least 300,000 people without power and roughly 30,000 displaced to temporary shelters.
Writer and reporter Eoin Higgins wasn’t happy as he took to Twitter to blast the famous Pastor
A Twitter user named Phillip Harris was equally disappointed with Osteen
Some say the Pastor – who has an estimated net worth north of $50 million – could help because his megachurch being able to shelter thousands of people
Power of Christ: His Lakewood church has around 17,000 seats
A Twitter user called Phillip Harris said: ‘Where’s Joel Osteen? His church in Houston holds 16,800, and he has plenty of money. Open the doors and help people! Well, guess not eh!’
Pastor Greg Locke reached out on Twitter also as he said: ‘Joel Osteen, as a Pastor you have a huge obligation to show the love of Christ at this very moment. OPEN THE DOORS. #HoustonStrong.’
Mrs. Betty Bowers didn’t hold back on social media either. She tweeted: ‘A message of Christian love to all those without shelter in Houston right now who seek refuge in Joel Osteen’s 16,800-seat Lakewood church.’
Hurricane Harvey has dumped over 30 inches of rain throughout parts of southeast Texas since it made landfall Friday evening
People continued to mock the famed Pastor with one user writing: ‘Oh, thank you, sweet, merciful lord for sparing Joel Osteen’s 16,000 seat Lakewood Church. Now, if only it had opened its doors to the needy.’
After the backlash, Lakewood Church then said it was becoming a collection site.
A statement read: ‘Coordinating with the city, Lakewood is a collection site for distributing supplies to the Houston area shelters.
‘Beginning at 12 Noon tomorrow we are collecting infant and adult diapers, baby formula and baby food.
‘Help us help others. Please bring these items to Lakewood Church, Circle Drive off Timmons St.’
ABC reports that Kevin Hart has donated $25,000 to the Red Cross, while also challenging some of his Hollywood peers to donate money.
Dozens of Houston-area churches, schools and community centers have opened their doors to offer temporary shelter to survivors
The storm and ensuing flooding have left at least 300,000 people without power and roughly 30,000 displaced to temporary shelters
He took to Instagram to post a video which he captioned: ‘I’m calling this the Hurricane Harvey Relief Challenge….
‘Lets go @therock @beyonce @chrisrock Jay Z Dave Chappelle @jerryseinfeld @iamsteveharveytv @justintimberlake #HurricaneHarveyReliefChallenge #prayforhouston …..I am getting a link together now people. Help me help Houston,’ he wrote.
Additionally, Houston Texans star JJ Watt, posted a link to YouCaring.com for donations to help.
On Monday, he said fundraising had hit $500,000 within the first day. His goal is now to raise $1 million.