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Amid online criticism, Joel Osteen denies church was ever closed during Houston flooding

On Sunday, church tweeted it was 'inaccessible'
Posted at 8:26 PM, Aug 28, 2017

Pastor Joel Osteen says the doors of his 17,000-seat Lakewood Church in Houston are open to flood evacuees, despite enormous criticism aimed at him in recent days for the facility apparently being shuttered. 

Lakewood Church was closed this weekend as Harvey dumped up to 24 inches of rain on the Houston area. On Sunday, Lakewood Church tweeted a listing of shelters available in the Houston area. Notable, Lakewood Church was not among the listing of shelters. 

Among the listing of shelters included a number of other local churches. 

Although streets around Lakewood Church were reported as not flooded, streets within a mile of the church were closed due to high water. 

This week, Osteen denied that Lakewood's doors were ever closed, despite the church tweeting on Sunday, "Lakewood Church is inaccessible due to severe flooding!"

According to USA Today, on Tuesday morning, Osteen said in a statement, "We have never closed our doors ... 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 Church is a converted NBA arena, which was the home to the Houston Rockets. 

A spokesperson for the church told the Houston Chronicle that water had risen above the church's floodgate.  

"It's not our unwillingness, it's just practicality. It's been a safety issue for us," spokesperson Don Iloff told the Chronicle. "Lakewood Church has a heart for this city."

On Saturday, Osteen sent a tweet offering prayers to the victims of Harvey. But social media users thought Osteen should offer more than prayers. Osteen, whose net worth is believed to be over $50 million, has been criticized for not making any contributions to the recovery efforts.

"Victoria and I are praying for everyone affected by Hurricane Harvey," Osteen tweeted. "Please join us as we pray for the safety of our Texas friends and family. 

On Monday, Osteen's church responded by soliciting donations from the public. It also added that it would collect infant and adult diapers, baby formula and baby food, and help distribute to the community. 

"We know the need is great," Lakewood Church said in a statement.