Houston, Texas – CNN.com – April 2, 2013 – In a shocking and surprising development, megachurch pastor Joel Osteen has announced he is resigning from his post and leaving the Christian faith.
In a statement released on his website (http://www.joelostenministries.com), which appeared stripped down and bare, he said he has been questioning the faith for a long time. “I believe now that the Bible is a fallible, flawed, highly inconsistent history book that has been altered hundreds of times. There is zero evidence the Bible is the holy word of God,” said Osteen.
The reaction across the Christian world ranged from shock to grief to anger. “I can’t believe it,” said Jolene McCormack, of Austin, Texas, “he’s the last person I would expect to defect to atheism.”
Some of his parishioners at his Lakewood, Texas area megachurch expressed anger. “We’ve given him so much, and now he’s leaving us?” said Jim Burger, 65, a ten-year member of the church. “We won’t stand for it.”
The incident occurred in February and created a local uproar. Halfway through his morning Sunday service he dropped to his knees and began crying, and then announced, “I am God!I am just as much a God as our Lord is!” The 10,000 members in attendance appeared stunned. Osteen later released an apology, and blamed the outburst on a lack of sleep due to his busy travel schedule.
With Osteen’s departure, the church is left with a gaping hole in its leadership. Mack Holdings III, the associate head pastor, will take over in operation and sermon duties for the time being. A press release prepared by the church claimed Osteen is experiencing a “mental breakdown” and seemed to suggest they are unwilling to accept his resignation. “We won’t put up with this,” a congregation leader said off the record. “This guy’s made millions off of us, we’re not going to let him just take our money. We know his net worth is in upwards of $50 million.”
In the church parking lot on Sunday, a crowd gathered to hold a prayer vigil. “We’ll pray for him. He’s come under the influence of the Devil,” said Margaret Samson, a twelve-year member of the church. “We will go on. But we need him. We can’t do this without him.”