LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The controversial Church of Wells has issued a statement following the arrest of six members at Lakewood Church in Houston over the weekend after they heckled Pastor Joel Osteen.
Church Elder Jacob Gardner, also one of the six men arrested, stated in an email to the East Texas News, "The seven of us involved in the effort to warn Lakewood Church of the coming judgment, are all of one mind in regards to the message that each of us were proclaiming this past Sunday. Most of the small substance of what has been reported of the phrases that were spoken by us are accurate, but they are by no means the complete burden that flooded our hearts that morning, and that has flooded our eyes with tears for many months now as we have preached to those multitudes flowing in and out of Lakewood, like droves tottering on the brink of destruction."
Gardner along with Richard Trudeau, Kevin Fessler, Mark De Rouville, Matthew Martinez and Randall Valdez have all been charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass. According to KTRK TV in Houston, attendee Anwar Richardson shot grainy video of security removing the hecklers from the megachurch.
The congregation clapped as they were removed and Osteen tried to continue delivering his message, but the disruptions continued."The praise and worship was good," Richardson told the station. "His wife had just delivered a quick message and the moment he started to preach, somebody gets up, and they yell, 'Joel Osteen, you're a liar.'"Richardson told KTRK he and his family decided to leave after the group heckled the televangelist a sixth time.
"What was not ballasting these reports is that we have been burdened for this place for years, this past year especially, and were all of us united in fasting and prayer for three days preceding this event," Gardner said. "We went constituted by the word of God, which says, 'Thus saith the LORD; Stand in the court of the LORD'S house, and speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD'S house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not a word' (Jeremiah 26:2), and again, 'The time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God'(I Peter 4:17). I do not say that we even recognize Lakewood as a church, or Osteen as a minister of Christ, but because they confer upon themselves such titles, we have been obliged to decry their sins. Let this much suffice for those who understand not what legitimizes such an act of righteous judgment."
Gardner continued by saying Osteen has glorified himself and offers a worship of self and not Christ.
"We are convinced that the sins of Joel Osteen and Lakewood church have reached heaven and that God has remembered their iniquities," Gardner said. "Thus the judgment of God is coming, must come, and in one sense has already come (manifested in the drunken stupor upon the masses that are trapped by him, to whom he promises lies of vanity)! This judgment shall devastate the man, the ministry, and the masses."
The incident in Houston is just the latest in a long string of events all involving the Deep East Texas church. In April of 2014 during the city of Wells annual homecoming celebration, church members yelled at children, telling them they were going to hell.
"If you have any units available, send them down this way. We've got a fight in progress," said a deputy calling for units.
This only added to the already rocky relationship between the Church of Wells and the city's residents. A week following the homecoming incident, units were called to a protest organized by Wells residents. The residents, fed up with the actions of the church, wanted to showcase their frustration.
On January 31, 2015, Jacob Gardner, an elder of the church, was arrested on misdemeanor criminal trespass and resisting arrest charges for allegedly causing a disturbance at Sabine High School. Gardner allegedly told students they were going hell and that what they were being taught in school was wrong. Gardner was released after posting a 1,500 dollar bail.
Back in May 2015, members of the church were placed in handcuffs during a demonstration on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus. Campus police said church members were on the property making vulgar comments to female students. SFA requires any group holding an organized demonstration to have the proper permit, the Church of Wells members had no such permit.
Houston Police said Sunday's incident wasn't the first time Lakewood had issues with the group. About one month ago, members from the Church of Wells were on Lakewood property. They were asked to leave and warned that if they returned, there would be legal consequences.