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After being slammed on social media, pastor opens megachurch to Harvey victims

Pastor Joel Osteen, of Lakewood Church in Houston, is known nationwide for his televised sermons that are broadcast in more than 100 countries.
Pastor Joel Osteen, of Lakewood Church in Houston, is known nationwide for his televised sermons that are broadcast in more than 100 countries. Charlotte Observer file

A famous Houston pastor faced strong criticism on allegations that he failed to open the doors of his megachurch to the flood victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Pastor Joel Osteen, of Lakewood Church in Houston, is known nationwide for his televised sermons that are broadcast in more than 100 countries.

As of Tuesday morning, however, he was the face of a church that had not opened its doors to victims who have been flooded out from their homes in Houston, according to multiple reports. The 16,000-seat former arena served as the home of the NBA's Houston Rockets from 1975 to 2003.

By midday Tuesday, Osteen tweeted that his church “doors are open and we are receiving anyone who needs shelter.”

The criticism came after Osteen called for prayers for everyone affected by Hurricane Harvey on Twitter, and angry users flooded his response.

Through the church’s Facebook account, a message was posted that said Lakewood Church was inaccessible because of the severe flooding in Houston. The post included a list of nine shelters open in the Houston area.

Another Twitter user, however, posted a video in which he sarcastically highlighted how he was able to reach the church and how it was not under water.

Don Iloff, spokesperson for Lakewood, told the Houston Chronicle on Monday that the church has never been closed during Harvey.

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

By Monday night, Twitter user Charles Clymer claimed victory over the issue. He posted an image of what appeared to be the inside of the church with “countless air mattresses.”

The Houston Chronicle reported Iloff could not confirm if the mattresses belonged to the church but said Lakewood was preparing to host people displaced by Harvey. The church expected to open its doors on Tuesday by noon to collect donations, the paper reported.

The pastor of Lakewood Church who reaches millions through his sermons on television and radio will appear Friday, April 7, 2017, at 7:30 p.m. at Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Cynthia Roldán: @CynthiaRoldan

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