Joel Osteen Criticized for Temporarily Closing Church

After backlash, the church tweeted Tuesday they had started receiving people into the church.

Joel Osteen, the permanently smiling pastor has canceled services usually held at his megachurch in Houston. The church allegedly shut its doors to thousands of Texans who were displaced by the flood who desperately need shelter. Instead of providing them accommodation, the pastor broadcast a message to his many followers: lean on the faith they have for Jesus Christ. In his social media post, he told that Jesus had promised peace which belies understanding. He added that such is peace even when it cannot be understood.

Critics, however, were not receptive to Osteen's comforting words. They wanted to know why the millionaire man of faith did not open the doors of his Lakewood Church. The place could seat 16,800 people as it was once a former stadium. Danny Deraney, one such critic, did not pull punches when he questioned the pastor of taking obscenely large amounts of money away from the people to live a royal lifestyle. He said that Osteen could at least provide much needed shelter.

Another critic, Charles Clymer, a writer based in Washington D.C., tweeted photographs of Lakewood Church. It was clear from the photos that the church remained unscathed by flooding. Emily Timbol, a writer from Florida, asked Osteen why he has not opened the church doors to help helpless Houston residents, an action which he can easily do if he wants to.

The Lakewood Church has responded to the allegations. Donald Iloff, the ministry spokesperson and Osteen’s father-in-law, said that although the church appears to be free from flooding, the property itself cannot be accessed due to flooding of the surrounding areas. Iloff also issued a statement: “We have never closed our doors. We will continue to be a distribution center for those in need.” Three individuals who came to church for help where taken to the George R. Brown Convention Center. The spokesperson said that this shelter has everything needed inside: medicine, sleeping arrangements and doctors as well.

Iloff also said that his church continues to be the spiritual heart of Houston. The church is scheduled to open in August 29 to collect baby diapers, adult diapers, baby food, and baby formula. It also made contact with the city administration and said that it will welcome flood victims after other shelters get full. The church also said that “it had launched a fundraising campaign for victims of the hurricane and was acting as a collection site for supplies for shelters in Houston,” as reported by Newsweek. On Monday evening, Clymer posted a photo that showed that air mattresses were being set up at Lakewood Church. He also said that according to a source the church would be open shortly to those who are seeking shelter due to displacement because of Hurricane Harvey.

On Tuesday morning, Lakewood church tweeted that it is “receiving people who need shelter.” They also stated, “We are also coordinating with the city as a collection site for distribution.” Clymer urged people who can’t find shelter via Twitter to go to the church, saying they would be open 12 pm CST.

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