Houston Pastor, Joel Osteen faces heavy criticism for closing his church to Hurricane Harvey victims

by Wareez Odunayo

In the wake of the disaster that has rendered thousands homeless in Houston Texas, dozens of churches, schools and community centers have opened their doors to offer temporary shelter to the victims of devastating Hurricane Harvey.

Famous televangelist and pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Joel Osteen has become the subject of social media criticism for not offering shelter to the victims of the disaster at his mega church.

The 54-year-old televangelist cancelled services at his 16,000 capacity mega church on Sunday and has yet to reopen its doors despite thousands of flooded-out residents being desperately in need of shelter.

Pastor Osteen, whose televised sermons are seen by more than seven million viewers weekly, in a Twitter post Saturday said, he was praying for those affected by the storm, which has dumped 20 to 40 inches of rain on the Houston area alone, with more on the way.

Also in a response to requests on Sunday that the church which can hold more than 16,000, be opened for evacuees, Lakewood Church posted on Facebook that it is “inaccessible due to severe flooding” and subsequently directed displaced residents to nearby Houston shelters.

Dear Houstonians! Lakewood Church is inaccessible due to severe flooding. We want to help make sure you are safe….

Posted by Lakewood Church on Sunday, August 27, 2017

The smiling pastor also told his followers on Twitter on Monday to lean on their faith. “Jesus promises us peace that passes understanding,” he wrote. “That’s peace when it doesn’t make sense”. He went further to tweet a message seeking flood-relief donations to his church.

But Osteen’s words have angered many who want to know why the doors to his 16,800-seat church near downtown Houston are closed.

In response to the criticisms, Osteen said in a statement on Monday evening that he and his church are “prepared to house people once shelters reach capacity.” “We have never closed our doors. We will continue to be a distribution center for those in need, Lakewood will be a value to the community in the aftermath of this storm in helping our fellow citizens rebuild their lives.” he said.

Lakewood Church also displayed photos showing flood in and around the church.

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