Joel Os­teen’s me­gachurch opens to those seek­ing shel­ter

Austin American-Statesman - - HURRICANE HARVEY -

Joel Os­teen opened his Houston me­gachurch to those seek­ing shel­ter af­ter so­cial me­dia crit­ics slammed the tel­e­van­ge­list for not of­fer­ing to house peo­ple in need while Har­vey swamps the city.

Lake­wood Church, a 16,000-seat for­mer arena that was the long­time home of the NBA’s Houston Rock­ets, an­nounced on Twit­ter that it was re­ceiv­ing peo­ple who need shel­ter late Tues­day morn­ing. Os­teen an­nounced the move him­self shortly af­ter, adding in a tweet that he and wife Victoria Os­teen “care deeply about our fel­low Hous­to­ni­ans.”

The church didn’t re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment Tues­day, but the move fol­lowed a day of on­line crit­i­cism from those who claimed the church closed its doors while other places of wor­ship, in­clud­ing sev­eral mosques, opened theirs to peo­ple who needed help.

In a state­ment to ABC News on Mon­day, Os­teen said the church “never closed its doors” and was serv­ing as a re­lief sup­ply dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter. He said it would “house peo­ple once shel­ters reach ca­pac­ity.”

Os­teen’s com­ment stood in con­trast to a church Face­book post and a since-deleted In­sta­gram re­mark by Lake­wood as­so­ciate pas­tor John Gray, who said flooded high­ways had made the church in­ac­ces­si­ble.

“For the peo­ple spread­ing lies about my church. If WE could get there WE WOULD OPEN THE DOORS,” Gray’s com­ment read. “As soon as the high­ways aren’t flooded please know @lake­wood­church will do all they can al­le­vi­ate the pain and suf­fer­ing of as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble. Love y’all! #Can­tS­tandLiars.”

Photo and videos posted to so­cial me­dia ap­peared to show at least some parts of the church’s prop­erty could be reached Mon­day. Lake­wood shared its own pho­tos with me­dia out­lets that it said de­picted flood­ing inside and around the church.

Lake­wood Church served as a shel­ter for about 5,000 peo­ple dis­placed dur­ing Trop­i­cal Storm Allison at its pre­vi­ous home in 2001, when more than 30 inches of rain were dumped on the city. It moved to the arena for­merly known as The Sum­mit and the Com­paq Cen­ter in 2005.

AP 2010

Lake­wood Church pas­tor Joel Os­teen said Mon­day that his 16,000-seat fa­cil­ity “never closed its doors” and was serv­ing as a re­lief sup­ply dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter. He said it would “house peo­ple once shel­ters reach ca­pac­ity.”

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