Description: Web hoax
Circulating since: April 2013
Status: False (see details below)
As posted on the Internet, April 2, 2013:
Megachurch pastor Joel Osteen resigns, leaves Christian faith
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 Osten.
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."
In recent months, Osteen had demonstrated a willingness to deviate from Christian doctrine, often peppering his sermons with "New Age" references and at one point calling himself "God".
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 Osten'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."
Analysis: This "news story" is fake, as are the websites promoting it. Houston mega-church pastor Joel Osteen has made no such statements nor taken any such actions. An April 5, 2013 posting on the authentic Joel Osteen Ministries website makes no mention of Osteen quitting his post or leaving the Christian faith. It's business as usual at Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas.
A denial was posted at 7:46 a.m., April 8, 2013 on the Joel Osteen Ministries Twitter feed: "It is a false rumor: Pastor Joel is not leaving the church. -JOM Team."
April Fools prank?
The false claims were made in a YouTube video and three bogus websites created for the occasion:
• www.joelostenministries.com (site is down intermittently due to traffic)
• christianitynewstexas.blogspot.com (site still active)
• joelosteenministries.wordpress.com (site suspended for TOS violation)
Note that Osteen's name is misspelled in joelostenministries.com and the WHOIS listing for that domain name shows it was created on April 1 (April Fools' Day):
Registered through: GoDaddy.com, LLC (http://www.godaddy.com)
Domain Name: JOELOSTENMINISTRIES.COM
Created on: 01-Apr-13
Expires on: 01-Apr-14
Last Updated on: 01-Apr-13
BMG Enterprises LLC
Maple Ln #5
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202
I've emailed the above-named registrant at the contact address provided but have thus far received no reply.
Update: Joel Osteen responds to hoax - "To us, it was so comical. We didn't think much about it except that someone's having an April Fool’s joke." - KHOU-TV News
Update: Hoax perpetrator explains why he did it - "I want a message to get through to this guy, turn down the clichés and get real," said Justin Tribble. - ABC News
Sources and further reading:
Joel Osteen 'Resigns' a Hoax; Pastor Attacked with False Statement
The Christian Post, 8 April 2013
Joel Osteen Hoax: Joel Osteen Isn't Giving Up His Christian Faith
Orlando Sentinel, 8 April 2013
Joel Osteen Target of Elaborate Internet Hoax
Houston Chronicle, 8 April 2013
Joel Osteen Ministries
Authentic home page of Joel Osteen Ministries
Authentic home page of Lakewood Church, Houston, Texas
Last updated 04/10/13