Friday, August 12, 2022

After Days of Public Shaming, Joel Osteen Preparing to Open Megachurch to Flood Evacuees

Joel Osteen’s 16,800-seat Lakewood Megachurch in Houston

*After Houston televangelist Joel Osteen came under fire for keeping the doors to his 16,800-seat Lakewood megachurch closed to flood evacuees displaced by Hurricane Harvey, the pastor has had a sudden change of heart.

Twitter user Charles Clymer posted a photo Monday evening that showed air mattresses being prepared for people inside the church.

“We have never closed our doors,” Osteen now claims in a statement reported by ABC and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We will continue to be a distribution center to those in need. We are prepared to house people once shelters reach capacity. Lakewood will be a value to the community in the aftermath of this storm.”

As previously reported, Osteen had come under fire on social media for allowing his huge worship facility, the former home of the Houston Rockets, to remain empty as thousands of displaced citizens are being forced into shelters that have already reached capacity.

Lakewood said in a Facebook post on Sunday morning that it’s “inaccessible due to flooding” and directed folks to a number of other shelters.

But as pressure mounted for Osteen and Lakewood to do something more helpful than tweet “thoughts and prayers” to those affected and links to other locations, Twitter sleuths came up with receipts proving that his church, in fact, was not the least bit “inaccessible due to flooding.”

Lakewood members

Lakewood members took offense.

Houston blogger Lynne Gabriel, @heyitslynneg, tweeted photos of the church’s flooded interior and wrote, “Seriously quite sickening when people spread negative news without knowing the situation.”

Despite the flooding depicted in the above tweet, the church is reportedly preparing to provide temporary housing for evacuees

Mashable reporter Patrick Kulp details the timeline of Lakewood’s slow response to the crisis, below:

Aside from that initial post this weekend, the church was silent on the matter. Emails were not returned, and an automated phone message said no one could answer because of “inclement weather conditions in our area.”

A statement from the church issued later on Monday afternoon said it had volunteers working in shelters around the city, but made no mention of the status of its building or its prospects as a similar relief zone.

“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,” the statement posted to Facebook read. “In addition, we are working with Samaritan’s Purse on major relief efforts.”

A church spokesperson told a Slate reporter that the church is open, but its social media channels made no mention of that change.

As for Osteen himself, the superstar pastor has punctuated his usual stream of religious aphorisms on Twitter with a few calls to pray for Harvey victims, but he’s stayed mum on the church controversy. Making the optics worse, he’s also reportedly blocked users who’ve asked him about it.




- Advertisement -