Pastor Osteen on Harvey: ‘The city didn’t ask us to become a shelter’

Joel Osteen appears on NBC News' "Today" show.
Image: peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images

Pastor Joel Osteen is mastering the art of self defense this week after getting dragged online for his delayed Tropical Storm Harvey relief efforts.

Osteen received loads of backlash after neglecting to open Lakewood Church — his literal megachurch that seats 16,000 people — as a shelter for victims of Harvey’s flooding.

And as the wealthy pastor’s latest defense, he told The Today Showthat he would have opened the doors to take people in, but the city of Houston didn’t directly ask him to.

Oh. Okay. Thanks for clearing that up.

On Wednesday morning when asked why the church waited until Tuesday to begin taking people in, Osteen told TODAY that “[The city] didn’t need us as shelter” early on.

The pastor claimed the church doors were always open and they took people in at the start of the storm, right when the water started to recede. “If we needed to be a shelter, we certainly would’ve been a shelter right when they first asked,” the pastor said.

“Once they filled up, they never dreamed that we’d have this many displaced people, [and] they asked us to become a shelter,” he went on. “I think this notion that somehow we would turn people away or we weren’t here for the city is about as false as can be.”

Prior to Tuesday when Lakewood finally opened its doors announcing it would be receiving people who need shelter and supplies, the church released a statement on Facebook saying it was “inaccessible due to severe flooding.”

Despite the claims, internet sleuths began posting photographs of the church which appeared unharmed from the outside, communicating their disappointment in Osteen’s lack of efforts.

When asked why the church’s doors couldn’t have just opened immediately to welcome those in need, Osteen told TODAY, “We’re all about helping people … I think if people were here — there were safety issues, this building had flooded before.”

The pastor claimed the church was just taking precautions, adding once again, “The main thing is the city didn’t ask us to become a shelter then.”

Maybe next time people are in danger and you have vast resources at your disposal don’t wait to be asked to help, Joel? I don’t know, just a thought.

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