Pastor Joel Osteen of Houston’s Lakewood Church has faced considerable backlash for keeping his megachurch locked as the city contends with major flooding and devastation from Hurricane Harvey. On Monday, the church issued a statement saying they too were flooded. On Tuesday they announced they’d finally be opening their doors.
Uproxx reports that the complaints began after Osteen tweeted a bunch of platitudes on Saturday about prayer and trusting God in the storm:
On Monday, the church posted a message to Facebook saying that the church was closed due to severe flooding, and recommended displaced people find shelter elsewhere:
Some people pointed out that conditions for approaching the church were good enough to make it accessible, and the building itself had multiple levels for people to rest and stay out of the storm:
CNN reports that as of Tuesday, the church has decided to start letting in the people who come to the doors for help, saying that the water has receded from the ground floor and hallways:
“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 said.
“We are prepared to shelter people once the cities and county shelters reach capacity. Lakewood will be a value to the community in the aftermath of this storm in helping our fellow citizens rebuild their lives.”
On Monday, Osteen also tweeted out a link for people to donate through the church to aid the city of Houston:
According to Newsweek, Lakewood is the largest megachurch in the US. Their average weekly attendance is 40,000 people. The nearby George R. Brown Convention Center is currently housing 6,000, and many other churches and mosques in the area are being turned into impromptu shelters.
Editor’s note: This post’s original headline was Texas Mega-Church Pastor Offered Prayers and Not Much Else to the People of Houston. It has been changed, since the church is now open.