Joel Osteen defends decision not to open church earlier


Millionaire Televangelist Prays for Houston, Declines to Open Megachurch as a Shelter

After a torrent of social media shaming, Houston-based preacher Joel Osteen is finally allowing Hurricane Harvey victims to seek refuge in his mega-church.

And by late Tuesday morning, when the shelter at the city's convention center reported twice as many evacuees as its capacity, Osteen's facility was publicly welcoming displaced Houstonians.

"Lakewood Church is inaccessible due to severe flooding!". On Sunday, Lakewood Church tweeted a listing of shelters available in the Houston area. The statement to ABC included photos indicating Lakewood is at this point dealing with its own flooding in and around the building, especially in what appear to be parking structures.

It also said that the church "will be a value to the community in the aftermath of this storm in helping our fellow citizens rebuild their lives".

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Senior Pastor, Osteen said "our hearts break as we see the damage and destruction in our city".

The Houston Lakewood Church has a capacity of nearly 17,000 but it has not been open to evacuees since the storm hit.

The megachurch also posted numerous photographs showing what they say is flooding around and inside the building.

He added: 'We try to use the best wisdom we can and the main thing is we've been here for 60 years to help this city, and be a blessing to others.

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"We ARE open", he told me.

But Lakewood Church spokesman Don Iloff told the Washington Post that the building was flooded and the water was close to spilling over the building's floodgate, so allowing people into the building would not have been safe.

Iloff said that at least 200 people could be housed on the 2nd floor of Lakewood Church.

Lakewood is a nondenominational church that hosts about 52,000 attendees weekly and is one of the largest congregations in the U.S.

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On Monday, a post on the church's Facebook page had said it was a "collection site for distributing supplies to the Houston area shelters" and urged people to bring diapers and baby food. So far, there have been 16 confirmed deaths as the result of the tropical cyclone.

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