UPDATE: Aug. 29, 2017, 11:52 a.m. EDT: This article has been updated to reflect a report that Osteen’s church is preparing to open its doors . em>
Lakewood Church, the Houston arena-cum-megachurch home of luminary evangelist Joel Osteen, is reportedly preparing to open its doorways to residents driven from their residences by Hurricane Harvey-related flooding.
The move comes after Osteen received significant pressure on social media to provide assistance to the community.
Charles Clymer, who had furnished some of the original evidence that the church had not been flooded as otherwise claimed, posted a photograph to Twitter that showed breath mattresses being prepared for people.
The church’s Twitter account also announced on Tuesday that it would be opening its doors to Harvey victims.
As the former home of the Houston Rocket, the church’s 16,000 benches are spacious enough for big crowds. And one would think a religion university would be inclined to open its entrances to the disadvantaged in a day like this, as others in the area already have.
Yet as the fallout from the cyclone continues to ravage the field, the massive construct remains empty.
The church said in a Facebook post on Sunday morning that it’s “inaccessible due to flooding” and directed tenants to a list of other shelters.
But several people in the area questioned this claim with photos posted on social media of the building’s exterior and surrounding grounds.
Aside from that initial post this weekend, the church was silent on the matter. Emails were not returned, and an automated telephone content said no one could answer because of “inclement weather conditions in our area.”
A statement from the church issued later on Monday afternoon said it had volunteers working in the area of shelters around the city, but established no mention of the situation of women its build or its prospects as a similar succour zone.
“We are running 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 all over the Houston area, ” the statement posted to Facebook read. “In addition, “were working with” Samaritan’s Purse on major relief efforts.”
A church spokesperson told a Slate reporter that the church is open, but its social media canals made no mention of that change.
“We ARE open, ” he told me. “Anyone who comes there, we’ll let in.” Skeleton staff of 6-8 are on site.
— Ruth Graham (@ publicroad) August 28, 2017
Later, the church released the following statement saying it’s “prepared to house people once shelters reach capacity.”
As for Osteen himself, the wizard pastor has punctuated his usual river of religious maxims on Twitter with a few called to speak to pray for Harvey victims, but he’s stayed mum on the church dispute. Stirring the optics worse, he’s also reportedly blocked customers who’ve asked him about it.
Photos circulating on Twitter claimed to see inundations in the church’s lower parking levels on Sunday night, and some users speculated problems in the underground parking and deluges in the surrounding streets have been to blame for the church’s response.
The freeway to get to his faith is underwater and so are the bottom degrees. Y’all are advising people to drown.
— Deaconess (@ AmandaDannielle) August 28, 2017
But judging from the number of social media sleuths who inspected on Monday, the place seemed accessible enough.
Stay tuned for updates.
Updated Monday, Aug. 28, 4:40 p.m. PT, with a new statement from the church. A previous version of this story said the flooding allegation was most recently posted on Facebook Friday. It moved up on Sunday . strong > em>