Watch CBS News

Houston megachurch, criticized for Harvey response, pushes back

Critics are slamming Pastor Joel Osteen for his megachurch's response to the Houston flooding, and now Osteen is pushing back. Osteen leads Lakewood Church in Houston, one of the largest congregations in the country -- so big, its home used to be an NBA arena.

Some on social media accused Osteen of closing the church's doors to flood victims, but he denies that.

It all began with a post on the church's Facebook page Sunday, reports CBS News correspondent Omar Villafranca. The post said Lakewood was inaccessible due to the severe flooding and included information on area shelters.

But many on Twitter began to question whether Lakewood was actually inaccessible and why the pastor wasn't offering the church as a shelter for those affected by the storm.

On Tuesday morning, Lakewood Church sent us photos showing flooding in and around the church.

Three photos provided by Lakewood Church appear to show flooding in and around the building Lakewood Church

In a statement to CBS News, Osteen said "we have never closed our doors" and the church will "continue to be a distribution center for those in need." He added they are prepared to shelter people once the city and county shelters reach capacity.

Later Tuesday morning, Osteen said on Twitter that "Lakewood's doors are open and we are receiving anyone who needs shelter."

Osteen's megachurch can seat around 17,000 people – three times the capacity of George R. Brown Convention Center, where more than 9,000 people stayed the night (the convention center's official capacity is 5,000).

Lakewood Church said on social media that starting at noon Tuesday, it will be collecting items for flooding victims, such as baby diapers and formula.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.