HOUSTON -- Houston's Lakewood Church has issued a statement regarding its response to Hurricane Harvey after being roundly accused on social media of refusing to open its doors to Hurricane Harvey evacuees.
"We have never closed our doors," Senior Pastor Joel Osteen said in a statement quoted by ABC and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "We will continue to be a distribution center to 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."
Lakewood is receiving people who need shelter. We are also receiving supplies such as baby food, baby formula and other shelter needs.— Lakewood Church (@lakewoodch) August 29, 2017
Osteen later gave a live interview to KHOU 11 News after the church opened to those who needed shelter.
The trouble started on Sunday after a social media posting from the megachurch saying, "Lakewood Church is inaccessible due to severe flooding!"
The post then went on to point people to other shelter resources in the area.
But Houstonians were not buying it and posted photos of the neighborhood around the church showing wet but passable streets.
"Shame on Joel Osteen," tweeted Rune, also known as @RuneK_15. "Jesus would open the doors and care for the needy."
Lakewood members responded.
Houston blogger Lynne Gabriel, @heyitslynneg, tweeted photos of the church's flooded interior and wrote, "Seriously quite sickening when people spread negative news without knowing the situation."
Lakewood is a nondenominational church that hosts about 52,000 attendees weekly and is one of the largest congregations in the U.S.