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.
Seriously quite sickening when people spread negative news without knowing the situation. This is the situation of our church @lakewoodch pic.twitter.com/0KKBmu6hW8
— Lynne Gabriel (@heyitslynneg) August 28, 2017
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.
Houston’s @indivisible_usa is acquainted with @JoelOsteen‘s Lakewood Church. They took these pics about an hour ago w/ commentary. pic.twitter.com/YTWrD9UG1z
— Charles Clymer????️???? (@cmclymer) August 28, 2017
Social media users had fired back at the church, offering up their own photos that showed a relatively dry church parking lot.