Rev. Joel Olsteen has reopened his Houston megachurch as a refuge for victims of Tropical Storm Harvey amid intense backlash for closing the church’s doors while the storm raged.
The televangelist, who shuttered the 16,000-seat Lakewood Church after the then-hurricane hit Houston over the weekend, faced harsh social media criticism before deciding Tuesday to allow displaced victims to seek shelter at the church.
“Houstonians, Texans, are generous people, gracious people,” Osteen said in a statement. “We like to help others in need. That’s what you’re seeing here today — people stepping up and … and helping these people that have been displaced.”
Olsteen said in an interview Wednesday with ABC’s “Good Morning America” that his church had previously been inaccessible due to floodwaters at the storm’s onset.
He also told NBC’s “Today” that a false narrative on social media was to blame for the criticism he received and that his church hadn’t been asked by the city to provide shelter for storm victims.
“Our church doors have always been open,” he said.