Update: Aug. 29, 2017, 11:52 a.m. EDT: This part has been updated to reflect a report that Osteen’s church is preparing to open its doorways .
Lakewood Church, the Houston arena-cum-megachurch home of celebrity preacher Joel Osteen, is reportedly preparing to open its doors to residents driven from their homes 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 some of the original evidence that the church had not been flooded as otherwise claimed, posted a photo to Twitter that presented air mattresses being prepared for people.
The church’s Twitter account also announced on Tuesday that it would be opening its entrances to Harvey victims.
As the former home of the Houston Rocket, the church’s 16,000 seats are spacious enough for big crowds. And one would think a religious organization would be inclined to open its doors to the needy in a day like this, as others in the area already have.
Yet as the fallout from the storm continues to devastate the area, the massive building remains empty.
The church said in a Facebook post on Sunday morning that it’s “inaccessible due to flooding” and aimed inhabitants 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 message mentioned 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 shelters around the city, but attained no mention of the status of its build or its prospects as a similar relief zone.
“We are operating 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 around the Houston area, ” the statement posted to Facebook read. “In addition, we are 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 channels attained 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 liberated the following statement saying it’s “prepared to house people once shelters reach capacity.”
As for Osteen himself, the superstar rector has punctuated his usual creek of religion maxims on Twitter with a few cases calls to pray for Harvey victims, but he’s stayed mum on the church dispute. Stimulating the optics worse, he’s likewise reportedly blocked customers who’ve asked him about it.
Photos circulating on Twitter purported to reveal inundations in the church’s lower parking levels on Sunday night, and some customers theorized problems in the underground parking and overflows in the surrounding roads have been to blame for the church’s response.
The freeway to get to his faith is underwater and so are the bottom levels. Y’all are advising people to drown.
— Deaconess (@ AmandaDannielle) August 28, 2017
But judging from the number of social media sleuths who visited 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 claim was most recently positioned on Facebook Friday. It moved up on Sunday .