Lakewood Church, the Houston megachurch that pastor and best-selling author Joel Osteen calls home, responded this week to accusations that it closed its doors to Hurricane Harvey flood victims.
The trouble started when the church, which boasts a capacity of around 16,000, posted this message to its Facebook page:
Even though the church said it was “inaccessible due to severe flooding,” that didn’t stop many from criticizing the organization and its pastor:
— Rune (@RuneK_15) August 29, 2017
Joel Osteen has a HUGE church in Houston that would make a great shelter. pic.twitter.com/byqHxXrHQn
— Brasilmagic (@Brasilmagic) August 28, 2017
Houston’s Joel Osteen has a net worth over $50m and a church that holds 16,800 but this is all he’s offering. pic.twitter.com/rmhdWK6ZAO
— Mark Elliott (@markmobility) August 28, 2017
Joel Osteen won’t open his church that holds 16,000 to hurricane victims because it only provides shelter from taxes. #HoustonStrong
— Alan Spencer (@MrAlanSpencer) August 28, 2017
Joel Osteen’s megachurch is designed for the rising tithe, not tide.
— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) August 28, 2017
Osteen has remained active on social media throughout Hurricane Harvey, and his church set up an area on its website to take donations to “help us help Houston”:
— Joel Osteen (@JoelOsteen) August 28, 2017
[FREE DOWNLOAD: 13 tips for preparing for a crisis]
Criticism grew after sports analyst Sean Salisbury went to Lakewood Church and took a video showing no signs of flood damage:
— Sean Salisbury (@SeanUnfiltered) August 28, 2017
The outcry caused Osteen to issue a public statement:
We have never closed our doors. 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.
Blogger Lynne Gabriel tweeted a news article that reported the church did take on some water:
— Lynne Gabriel (@heyitslynneg) August 28, 2017
However, Snopes questioned whether those photos were actually taken of Lakewood Church, or whether they were snapped “near” it.
Osteen’s explanation and promise to open the doors once shelters “reach capacity”—along with pictures that showed flooding potentially on the church’s premises didn’t do much to quell the criticism:
Dear Christians – @JoelOsteen didn’t open his Church in Houston for Evacuees, but 21 Mosques did. How is that feeling?
— Patriotic Moose&Lamb (@GinoKusa) August 29, 2017
trumpers spend A LOT of time demonizing Muslims. I hope they take note of THESE Muslims, while Joel Osteen kept doors closed 2 Christians. https://t.co/QFjYI3TpIt
— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@mmpadellan) August 29, 2017
How would you advise Osteen and the church to proceed from here, PR Daily readers?
Osteen has since responded to the backlash, and is opening his church’s doors to those that need shelter:
Victoria and I care deeply about our fellow Houstonians. Lakewood’s doors are open and we are receiving anyone who needs shelter.
— Joel Osteen (@JoelOsteen) August 29, 2017