Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church responded to heavy criticism on Monday for not immediately opening its doors to the victims of Hurricane Harvey, which has devastated Houston and surrounding areas in Texas.
“We have never closed our doors. We will continue to be a distribution center for those in need,” the church said in a statement to Mediaite. “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.”
Lakewood Church did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
Celebrity televangelist Osteen is currently under Twitter fire for not opening his church, which holds 16,800 people.
Other nearby venues including religious organizations accepted flooding victims. Lakewood, formerly a sports arena known as the home of NBA team the Houston Rockets, canceled services on Sunday and locked up with a message posted to social media that the building was “inaccessible due to heavy flooding.”
It wasn’t clear whether the “heavy flooding” referred to the church itself, or to the city of Houston, but several photos purported to be of the church showed no evidence of flooding.
The church’s official Facebook and Twitter pages have information on how to donate items and asking for volunteers. And a photo posted on Twitter suggested that the megachurch is finally preparing to take people in by bringing in “countless air mattresses.”
— Charles Clymer????️???? (@cmclymer) August 29, 2017