Published: Thu, August 31, 2017
Culture | By Marion Pratt

Joel Osteen's Houston megachurch opens doors as Harvey shelter

Joel Osteen's Houston megachurch opens doors as Harvey shelter

As Hurricane Harvey slammed the streets of Houston, Texas, Osteen was criticized for not opening the doors to his stadium-size church.

Osteen had faced intense backlash after tweeting prayers for Harvey victims while Lakewood Church - the former home of the NBA's Houston Rockets that seats 16,000 people - remained empty for days.

"Thank you Houston! We appreciate the volunteers who came out today to help so many people displaced by Hurricane Harvey", the church posted with a video clip of people driving to the church entrance to deliver items. Iloff added that at least several hundred people can be housed on the 2nd floor of the church.

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So, what's with all the photos of the flooding that appears on the "lower level" of the church? "We have never closed our doors", the statement said.

This week, Osteen denied that Lakewood's doors were ever closed, despite the church tweeting on Sunday, "Lakewood Church is inaccessible due to severe flooding!" "Lakewood will be a value to the community in the aftermath of this storm in helping our fellow citizens to rebuild our lives". It's been a safety issue for us. We installed flood gates, but you know, you have to have a lot of faith in those if you are going to put a lot of people into the building.

The megachurch also posted numerous photographs showing what they say is flooding around and inside the building.

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Lakewood Church said on social media that starting at noon Tuesday, it will be collecting items for flooding victims, such as baby diapers and formula. We want to help make sure you are safe.

Joel Osteen took over as Lakewood Church's senior pastor months after his father died in 1999. And though he avowed that doors have always been open, Iloff stated that bringing in crowds of storm evacuees over the weekend "would've been unsafe".

Lakewood is a nondenominational church that hosts about 52,000 attendees weekly and is one of the largest congregations in America.

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At least nine people are reported to have died as a result of Hurricane Harvey, the worst storm to strike the USA in 12 years.

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