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UPDATED: Wednesday, August 30 10:20 ET

Houston Megachurch Pastor Joel Osteen on Wednesday denied social media claims that he closed the doors of Lakewood Church to Hurricane Harvey flooding victims,  USA Today reports.

“The church has always been open,” Osteen told CNN. “We received shelter victims the first day or two.”

He was blasted on social media after the church posted a notice on social media Sunday that the building closed due to “severe flooding” following Hurricane Harvey, the report notes.

Do you think he changed his mind after criticism? Sound off in comments.


Joel Osteen’s Black Pastor Defends Hurricane Church Closing, Twitter Reacts

Pastor John Gray has taken off his gloves and going bare knuckles to defend Lakewood Church’s reputation.

The associate pastor is the first Black minister at Pastor Joel Osteen’s megachurch in Houston, which has come under scathing criticism for not opening its doors to people seeking shelter after Hurricane Harvey.

Pastor John, as parishioners call him, insisted on social media that Lakewood cannot take in any refugees from the storm because the flooded highways are blocking access to the church, an arena that was once the home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets. He insists that the facility is also flooded–which twitter users have disputed with widely circulated photographs.

He tweeted defensively: “For the people spreading lies about my church. If WE could get there WE WOULD OPEN THE DOORS.”

Earlier, Pastor John became confrontational with Twitter user Brad Ripka, who accused “the so-called Christian” minister of lying. The pastor told Ripka to call him a liar to his face.

In their exchange, Pastor John chastised Ripka of cursing but avoided answering the charge that photographs show that church has insignificant flood damage. Other Twitter users slammed the pastor for changing the subject.

Osteen has been under fire since Saturday. As the flood waters began to rise, the pastor said he’s praying for those who are suffering but declined to open his church—which can hold more than 16,000 people—as a haven to evacuees.

ABC News reported that Osteen released a statement on Monday evening, saying his church would “house people once shelters reach capacity.”



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