Joel Osteen’s Houston Church Denies Closing Doors to Flood Victims

Pastor Joel Osteen’s Houston church’s doors are open to victims displaced by massive Hurricane Harvey flooding, said a Lakewood Church spokesman, as reported by CNN. This statement follows criticism on social media amidst claims that the church was not taking people in.

Joel Osteen at SiriusXM Studios

Joel Osteen participates in “Joel Osteen Live” featuring Joel and Victoria Osteen at SiriusXM Studios on October 3, 2016 in New York City. | Cindy Ord/Getty Images

“We have never closed our doors. We will continue to be a distribution center for those in need,” said Osteen’s father-in-law Donald Iloff, as reported by CNN, adding the church is prepared to shelter people once the city’s and county’s shelters reach capacity.

Osteen tweeted on Saturday that he was praying for victims affected by the storm:

On social media the pastor and church began receiving criticism for not providing shelter to flood victims at the church, which can hold 16,800 people. The church posted on Facebook Sunday that it was inaccessible due to the severe flooding. It provided information for evacuees on nearby Houston shelters. Tweets were posted blasting the church’s decision not to open its doors.

CNN published photos of Lakewood Church, located at Norfolk and Edloe streets in Houston and formerly host to the NBA’s Houston Rockets, showing standing water inside the building. Iloff told CNN the water had already receded. Photos of the flooded church were also posted by members of the church on Twitter.

As reported by Time, Iloff said the church would collect baby items, formula, and baby and adult diapers for the city on Tuesday.

Osteen, 54, inherited Lakewood Church from his father John Osteen, who founded it in 1959. Currently, the congregation is reportedly made up of around 52,000 attendees per week. The church relocated to the current arena, formerly known as the Compaq Center, in 2005.

In related hurricane news, Houston rescuers continue to field calls from Texans stranded in flood waters. Harvey made landfall on Friday, and thousands have been rescued since then. At least nine people have died to date as a result of the storm.