Millionaire pastor slammed for closing doors to Houston flood victims
An evangelist preacher in Houston is being targeted through a social media campaign after being accused of lying about his church being inaccessible.
Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church sparked anger when it wrote on Facebook: “Dear Houstonians! Lakewood Church is inaccessible due to severe flooding! We want to help make sure you are safe. Please see the list below for safe shelters around our city, and please share this with those in need!”
The post appeared to suggest the church was closing its doors to those in need of help. The ‘church’ is housed in an arena with 16,800-seat capacity in downtown Houston. It was formerly used by the NBA basketball team, Houston Rockets.
You have a mega church- I think Christ would like you to help people with it.— Sr Mari Avon Trapp (@MariAvonTrapp) August 28, 2017
Victoria & I are praying for everyone affected by Hurricane Harvey. Please join us as we pray for the safety of our Texas friends & family.— Joel Osteen (@JoelOsteen) August 26, 2017
People soon began sharing images of what they said was outside the megachurch, seemingly safe from the water.
Nope. I'm not sure that the lower level is not flooded. But this is the below ground level loading dock & there is no standing water there. pic.twitter.com/w7vZfj57hA— NotInvisibleUSA (@indivisible_usa) August 28, 2017
However, a church member responded by sharing images of what she said was the church’s flooded basement.
Twitter users were quick to claim out that the images were of the underground carpark, and that the rest of the building is elevated. Others shared more images taken at the church, while one man did a livestream from outside.
That's the underground parking garage— Ryan Hollingsworth (@ryanholl) August 28, 2017
Of the very bottom. The stadium sits high up and you have to walk up flights of steps.— Ryan Hollingsworth (@ryanholl) August 28, 2017
That structure is enormous. This is @ it's lowest level. When my driveway takes on water, my house remains dry for my family.— Jimmy (@JBrookzFilms) August 29, 2017
Lakewood is a collection site for distributing supplies to area shelters but can't take in flood victims? Hmmm. Thought it was inaccessible?— David Blanton (@BlantonDavid) August 29, 2017
Many pointed to the apparent hypocrisy of the celebrity pastor failing to welcome people to the church. Others said he had blocked them on Twitter for raising questions about the controversy.
Some users online also shared images of Joel Osteen’s $10 million mansion.
The Church said it was acting as a collection site for supplies for shelters, calling many to question how it could be both a distribution site and inaccessible.
"We have never closed our doors," Senior Pastor Joel Osteen later said in a statement. "We will continue to be a distribution center to those in need. We are prepared to house people once shelters reach capacity. Lakewood will be a value to the community in the aftermath of this storm."
Osteen’s father, John, founded the church in 1959. Joel took over when his father died in 1999 and increased its membership.
Charles Clymer, a journalist who shared images of outside the church, later shared an image which he said was taken from inside the church, showing air mattresses lying on the corridors.
The church’s previous location did serve as shelter for people during Tropical Storm Allison back in 2001.