Texas pastor Joel Osteen responds to backlash over not opening his megachurch to Harvey victims

Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM

After facing days of backlash, Texas televangelist Joel Osteen has said the massive Lakewood Church will open its doors to flood victims displaced by Tropical Storm Harvey.

Osteen told ABC News Monday the Houston megachurch “will continue to be a distribution center for those in need” and is “prepared to house people once shelters reach capacity.”

Osteen had faced a firestorm of online criticism 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.

A spokesman told CNN Tuesday the church is set to open on Tuesday at noon, and disputed the criticisms that had been levied against the church.

“We have never closed our doors. We will continue to be a distribution center for those in need,” Lakewood Church spokesman Donald Iloff told CNN.

A Facebook post on Sunday said the megachurch was “inaccessible due to severe flooding” and directed residents to other Houston shelters, which have been taking in thousands of displaced victims.

Iloff told CNN that at least three people who had sought help from the church were redirected to Houston’s George Brown Convention Center, which has accepted more than 7,000 people.

The church provided photos that showed standing water in parts of the building, which Iloff said Monday had begun to recede.

Social media users had fired back at the church, offering up their own photos that showed a relatively dry church parking lot.