Well known televangelist Joel Osteen, who hosts shows to a crowd of seven million on a weekly basis, was the recipient of widespread condemnation on social media today as it became known that he had closed his 17,000-seat Lakewood megachurch to help hurricane victims whilst other places of worship opened theirs.
It was claimed that the church could have sheltered thousands of people who had been displaced by rising waters. Harvey’s floods have so far left 300,000 people without power and some 30,000 are displaced and are in hiding in temporary shelters.
Quick to react, Pastor Osteen realized the possible damage to his reputation and church authorities of his organization stated they would be setting up a collection site
The reason for not opening the doors of the church was simply because of floodwater, according to Osteen’s organization.
The official statement on Facebook read that the well-known place of worship was 'inaccessible due to severe flooding.'
It went on to say that: 'Our hearts are breaking as we see the images of the damage and destruction in our city and the surrounding areas from Hurricane Harvey. 'We are praying for everyone’s safety in Houston and Texas. As a community, we can help each other get through this storm. We appreciate your prayers, both for our city and for Lakewood Church. We are working diligently with the city of Houston to mobilize our many volunteers at shelters around the city as well as various other points of need in and around the Houston area.'
The pastor, whose estimated net worth is well north of $50 million was condemned on social media and his wishes weren't well received by some users who stated that merely sending out prayers and thoughts rather than offering to donate money was a sham.
A resident of the region, Mrs. Betty Bowers tweeted: 'A message of Christian love to all those without shelter in Houston right now who seek refuge in Joel Osteen’s 16,800-seat Lakewood church.'
Another Twitter user called Phillip Harris said: 'Where's Joel Osteen? His church in Houston holds 16,800, and he has plenty of money. Open the doors and help people! Well, guess not eh!'