UPDATE: After criticism and questions regarding his megachurch's closed doors, televangelist Joel Osteen has opened Lakewood Church to displaced citizens in Houston, ABC News reported.
Shortly after announcing that the religious arena was available to the public as a shelter on Twitter, vehicles filled with volunteers and supplies rolled up to the church.
When speaking to NBC Today about the controversy on Wednesday, Osteen said, "I don’t know if [the criticism] is unfounded, but I think if people were here they’d realize there were safety issues. This building had flooded before, and so we were just being precautious.”
However, any progress he'd made on behalf of his church was undone when he added, "The main thing is the city didn't ask us to become a shelter."
Seems like Osteen needs to revisit the Good Book and take notes from the many hundreds of Americans who have volunteered to help in the relief of southeast Texas. One of the highest forms of altruism is offering help without waiting to be asked, and as someone who models himself as a moral pillar of the community, one would assume Osteen understands that.
Joel Osteen, a famed Houston televangelist with a net worth of $40 million, recently posted on Facebook that his church would not be accessible to Hurricane Harvey flood victims due to rising water levels.
However, soon enough, people started posting photos of the street on which Lakewood Church is situated, showing a distinct lack of flooding at Osteen's church doors.
According to Snopes, "a map of the area surrounding the church shows it is under a flood advisory, but not a warning."
Put your money where your mouth is. Houston has been unfathomably good to you. Time to pay it back. Literally— Amandaisarunner (@amandaisarunner) August 28, 2017
Hey Joel, don't you have the biggest and richest church? Why don't you open up the doors and the wallet in the name of Jesus for the people!— Mozez713 (@Mozez713) 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
In contrast, the Houston Chronicle published photos indicating the church was indeed flooded, although Snopes noted that the captions raised questions as to whether these images were taken inside the facility, or in areas nearby. The verdict, as it stands, is mixed.
After widespread criticism, Osteen released a statement, saying the church never closed its doors.
“We have never closed our doors. We will continue to be a distribution center for 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 in helping our fellow citizens rebuild their lives,” the statement read, according to ABC News.
Chron.com reported the church will open on Aug. 29 "to collect baby food, baby formula, baby diapers and adult diapers on behalf of the city. Lakewood was in communication with the city today and said it would shelter Harvey victims once other shelters are full."
Banner/Thumbnail: Reuters, Adrees Latif