The Pastor Blames the Closure on Flooding
By: Priscilla De Silva
On Friday, August 25, thousands of Texas locals were left with no other choice but to leave their flooded homes and evacuate to local centers as Hurricane Harvey barreled through the state.
One location, however, that was not found on the list of evacuation centers was Lakewood megachurch lead by celebrity Pastor, Joel Osteen, who initially decided to keep his church doors closed to Harvey victims.
Notice of the pastor’s decision was posted to the church’s Facebook page two days after Harvey landed and claimed that the Lakewood Church was inaccessible due to severe flooding.
Despite Osteen’s listing of other available centers, many went to Twitter angry and criticized his church closure as “un-Christian.”
Even fellow pastors took time to decry Osteen’s actions. Pastor Greg Locke of the Global Vision Bible Church in Tennessee tweeted: “Joel Osteen, as a Pastor you have a huge obligation to show the love of Christ at this very moment. OPEN THE DOORS.”
Others, such as Facebook user Gary D. Coleman, were quick to point out the legitimacy of the ownership of the church as he goes on to comment: “Remember who gave you that arena.”
Joel Osteen continuously rebutted allegations raised against him, saying in an interview with the New York Times that he was only looking out for the safety of the people.
Don Iloff, spokesman for the Lakewood Church, told The Washington Post that the building had been flooded during the weekend, with water close to spilling over the facility’s floodgate.
Pictures showing the church’s entrance and parking lot without any sign of flooding also surfaced Monday afternoon.
“Those were taken after water had receded,” Iloff said, adding that photos taken from inside and outside of the church the day before show significant flooding.
Iloff claimed that taking in a crowd of storm evacuees would have been unsafe, although he maintained that the church’s doors were never closed.
It is confirmed that Osteen has now reopened the doors to let in people in need of supplies and resources, but some twitter followers were unsatisfied with the lateness of his response.
“#JoelOsteen decides to open his church as shelter for Houston Flood victims! Hmmm! God didn’t change his heart twitter did!” tweeted by DL Hughley.
Olsteen told the New York Post that he does not let social media run his life or ministry and he knows he did the right thing, and then expresses that it was no fault of his own, but Houston itself for the shelter confusion.
“The city runs the shelters. They asked for a distribution center. We could’ve been a shelter from Day One if they needed that.”
The controversial situation has left people questioning the legitimacy of offering contributions to church.
Offerings are money contributions to churches by the congregation of people attending. These offerings make up the church’s allowance, in which they use towards the upkeep of the building as well as the pastor’s salary. They are regulated by the amount of people that make up the congregation.
Formerly the home of the Houston Rockets, the Lakewood Church has over 52,000 attendees per week, making it the largest congregation in the United States. Besides personal endeavors of published writing, this mass popularity has led John Osteen to gain a net worth of $60 million.
Since opening the church for evacuees, Osteen has requested donations to the church which has led to prominent people, such as filmmaker Tyler Perry, to donate $250,000 to Lakewood.
But others are opposing the gesture, and accuse Osteen of pocketing the money.
“You have taken so much money away from your people to live like a king,” entertainment publicist Danny Deraney said.
Houston officials continue to rebuild in the aftermath of Harvey. Thousands have been rescued since the Hurricane made landfall on Friday.
Seventy people have died as a result to Harvey in the Texas area. With restoration still under way, the number is expected to increase.