Houston megachurch, criticized for Harvey response, pushes back

Joel Osteen, Victoria Osteen
FILE - This April 24, 2010 file photo shows Lakewood Church pastor Joel Osteen at Dodger Stadium during his "A Night of Hope" in Los Angeles. Osteen said in a statement to ABC News on Aug. 28, 2017, that his Lakewood Church would open as a shelter for Hurricane Harvey victims if needed. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

HOUSTON (AP) – Televangelist Joel Osteen says his Houston megachurch has “never” closed its doors to people seeking shelter as Harvey swamps the city.

Osteen has faced criticism for not opening his massive Lakewood Church as a storm shelter.

In a statement to ABC News, Osteen says the church “will continue to be a distribution center for those in need” and is “prepared to house people once shelters reach capacity.”

The 16,000-seat former arena served as the home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets from 1975 to 2003.

Osteen’s comment stands in contrast to a church Facebook post and a since-deleted Instagram remark by Lakewood associate pastor John Gray, who said flooded highways had made the church inaccessible. A spokeswoman for Osteen didn’t immediately return a request for comment Tuesday.

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