Where's Joel?

Joel Osteen's delayed response to Hurricane Harvey creates social media firestorm

Joel Osteen's delayed response to Hurricane Harvey creates firestorm

Ben-Hur premiere, Aug. 2016, Joel Osteen, Victoria Osteen
Joel and Victoria Osteen. © Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group

UPDATE: Late Tuesday morning Lakewood Church tweeted that is open for people who need shelter.

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Where is Joel Osteen? 

That's the question that a large number of people on social media have been asking as the Lakewood Church mega-pastor was conspicuously silent in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. On Saturday, as the rains descended on Houston, Osteen posted a notice on his website that the church, which can hold 17,000 people, would be shut over the weekend and said he and his wife, Victoria, "are praying for everyone affected by Hurricane Harvey."

The church remained closed Monday as critics fumed. Many readers located a 2010 CultureMap story about the $10.5 million River Oaks home where Osteen lives with his wife and family, and a vigorous debate ensued in the comments section about the "prosperity preacher" and his reaction to the hurricane while other churches in the city are welcoming those who are homeless and have lost everything.

Ministry spokesman Don Iloff, Osteen's brother-in-law, told The Christian Post on Monday that the Osteen family is safe but without power.

A notice on Lakewood's Facebook page on Sunday said that "Lakewood Church is inaccessible due to severe flooding," and referred evacuees to "safe shelters around our city."

Some critics disputed the allegation, posting a video of a navigable streets around the former Compaq Center located between the Southwest Freeway and Richmond Avenue.

On Monday afternoon, the church posted a "Hurricane Relief Update" on its website and on Instagram. It reads in part:

We are working 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. In addition, we are working with Samaritan’s Purse on major relief efforts. In the days ahead, the needs in our city will be great and we are mobilizing even more volunteers to help those who have been devastated by this storm.

While no one could have anticipated how severe this storm would be, we are thankful for the heroic efforts of our police officers, fire department, first responders, and the many volunteers across our state. We are also thankful for the City of Houston and Harris County officials who were wise enough to prepare accordingly, both in rescue preparations and in sheltering the displaced. We are honored to support them in their efforts.

Victoria and I believe we will all come out stronger and filled with a greater faith than before.  We love you and continue to pray for all of Houston and Texas.
To join with Lakewood Church and Samaritan’s Purse in helping our community recover, please visit the link in our bio. -  Joel & Victoria Osteen

And the church posted a fiery reply on Monday night from Osteen.

Also on Monday night, the church said it will open a collection site on Tuesday to distribute supplies to Houston-area shelters.