16,800-seater US megachurch under fire for not opening doors to Hurricane Harvey evacuees
Joel Osteen, one of America’s richest pastors who leads the church, offered prayers for the victims.Updated: Aug 29, 2017 14:05 IST
One of America’s richest pastors has come under criticism on social media for not welcoming those seeking shelter from Hurricane Harvey into his Lakewood megachurch in Houston, Texas.
Joel Osteen, a televangelist, best-selling author and pastor, whose net worth is estimated to be $40 million, has been tweeting comforting messages of prayer and faith to his 6.17 million followers on Twitter.
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
But many social media users, among them Houstonians, have been sharply critical of Osteen for not offering flood-hit, stranded residents shelter at his sprawling Lakewood Church.
The nondenominational Lakewood Church has a seating capacity of 16,800 and hosts 52,000 attendees on a weekly basis, and looks more like an amphitheatre and stadium rolled into one. Here is a glimpse of the church from one of Osteen’s recent podcasts:
In a Facebook post on Sunday, the Church stated that it was “inaccessible due to flooding” and pointed relief-seekers to other shelters. But many Houstonians took to Twitter to post pictures of the Church from outside, while others questioned Osteen’s decision to keep the church doors closed and not use his vast network to actively organise relief efforts. Many people seemed to feel that merely offering prayers was not good enough at a time when people needed help.
You and Victoria need to helping by opening your church and providing that money that gets donated to you for those in need .🙄— Monica.dlsm (@Mbabyyyy) August 28, 2017
How are you guys helping the storm victims in Texas right now?— Ken Reid (@KennethWReid) 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
If only you had a big building in Houston that could serve as a shelter for ... I don't know, just spitballing here ... 16,800 people. https://t.co/CGdw1m7EpD— shauna (@goldengateblond) 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
I'm hard on Joel Osteen specifically because I am a Christian. That is my "agenda". Christ would not close His doors to the needy. Ever.— Charles Clymer🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) August 28, 2017
After being roundly slammed on social media, the Church issued a statement on Monday evening, saying they have never closed their doors. They also released photos of flooding in and around the Church.
“We have never closed our doors. We will continue to be a distribution center for those in need,” reads the statement. “Lakewood will be a value to the community in the aftermath of this storm in helping our fellow citizens rebuild their lives.”
First Published: Aug 29, 2017 14:05 IST