Megachurch Pastor Joel Osteen Defends Not Opening Church Sooner for Harvey Victims, Insists It Wasn't Safe

By

Megachurch pastor Joel Osteen continues to defend the decision not to open Lakewood Church's doors to shelter those that have been displaced following Hurricane Harvey. 

The religious leader tweeted on Tuesday that the 16,000-seat church was finally receiving "anyone who needs shelter," following accusations that he and his congregation weren't doing enough to aid the victims of the natural disaster in Houston, Texas. Oprah and Tyler Perry are among the celebrities who have attended services at Lakewood; multiple GRAMMY winner and gospel star Israel Houghton used to be worship leader at the church. 

On Wednesday, Osteen appeared via satellite on CBS This Morning, Good Morning America and the Today show to explain why it took Lakewood days to start sheltering people.

When asked on CBS This Morning why it "took so long to mobilize," the pastor replied, "If you were here, you'd understand why. Our volunteers, people that run this building, they can't get to the facility."

Osteen claimed that the city initially requested that the church be a distribution center and/or a command center following the storm.

"We could've been a shelter from day one if they wanted that," he insisted, noting that he's not sure how many people the church has taken in but is sure that the number is in the hundreds. "This notion that we turned people away or that we weren't here for the city, we've been here 60 years doing this."

CBS This Morning also inquired about the church fundraising on their website to help Hurricane Harvey victims, but noted that it "wasn't clear" what charity those donations were going to or how that money would be used. "We'd be raising money for the victims here in Houston," Osteen explained. "I don't know how it all works. We're working with Samaritan's Purse and different ones."

The pastor further declared, "We'll be here five years from now helping these people. ...It will go to the people affected by the flooding, many of them [are] our own [church] members."

As for whether he's concerned about the backlash that Lakewood received after Hurricane Harvey hit, Osteen said confidently, "We know who we are. If you let social media run your life and your ministry, you’ll never do anything. ...We know we did the right thing for safety."

Meanwhile, former Bachelor star Sean Lowe took it upon himself to help out in the evacuations in Texas, and recalled to ET a heroic moment where he helped a man going into cardiac arrest.

Check it out our exclusive interview with the real-life hero: