Texas pastor Joel Osteen has opened his Lakewood Church in Houston to victims of Hurricane Harvey after he was slammed for not offering shelter to people displaced by the devastating flooding.
Osteen was criticised for not opening the doors of his 16,800-seat Lakewood Church to Houston residents after Hurricane Harvey forced more than 30,000 people to seek shelter.
Lakewood Church, which was founded by Osteen's father in the 1950s, said on Saturday (27 August) that it was "inaccessible due to severe flooding" and urged displaced residents to seek shelter elsewhere on Facebook.
The church's reaction was met with fury on social media, with people accusing Osteen of failing his duty as a Christian to care for the most vulnerable in society.
"If you were a real Christian, you'd be opening your doors to your displaced neighbors," one woman wrote on Twitter.
"Despicable...Not very Christian indeed! Time to give back to the people you serve," another woman wrote.
"Joel Osteen, as a Pastor you have a huge obligation to show the love of Christ at this very moment. OPEN THE DOORS," Pastor Greg Locke commented.
On Monday (29 August), Lakewood Church finally opened its doors.
"We will continue to be a distribution center to those in need. We are prepared to house people once shelters reach capacity. Lakewood will be a value to the community in the aftermath of this storm," Osteen said in a statement to US media.
The church also circulated photos showing that parts of the site, including the hallways and parking lot, were badly flooded.
Osteen's father-in-law Donald Iloff disputed accusations that the church had warded off victims. "We have never closed our doors. We will continue to be a distribution centre for those in need," he said.
"We are prepared to shelter people once the cities and county shelters reach capacity. Lakewood will be a value to the community in the aftermath of this storm in helping our fellow citizens rebuild their lives," he added.
Iloff said that at least 200 people could be housed on the 2nd floor of Lakewood Church.
At least nine people are reported to have died in the Houston area due to the floods. Six members of the same family died while trying to flee the rising floodwater.