Globally recognized pastor Joel Osteen has been drawing some flak from the press and the public in the past few months over his comments on homosexuality.
His remarks last year on "The View" and "Larry King Live" that "homosexuality is not God's best" drew fire from the gay rights community and from Christians for avoiding to identify the behavior as a sin.
More recently, his participation in the inauguration of Houston's first openly gay mayor has also drawn some – but less fiery – attention.
Pastor of America's largest church, Osteen was invited to offer the opening prayer at the inauguration of Houston's elected city officials on Monday. While praying for the 14-member City Council, he also specifically thanked God for the new mayor, Annise Parker, a partnered lesbian.
"She's our mayor. Joel doesn't view Annise through a gay lens," Don Iloff, Jr., spokesman for Lakewood Church in Houston, told The Christian Post. "He sees her as a person."
And the Bible instructs believers to pray for and respect those who govern us, he added.
"If you ask Joel he'll tell you 'when I can pray at an event over government leaders and in Jesus' name it's hard to resist,'" Iloff said. Osteen prayed for the previous mayor, Bill White, at his inauguration.
The spokesman also pointed out that Parker has never pushed or highlighted any kind of gay agenda during her time in government and during her campaign.
"She's an all business kind of gal," he said.
During the swearing-in ceremony Monday, the former city controller addressed the economy, public safety and education. She also briefly addressed the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community saying, "I feel your excitement and your joy, your apprehension and your longing for acceptance. I will gladly carry you forward. But today is simply one step toward a tomorrow of greater justice," according to the Houston Chronicle.
If Parker begins pushing a homosexual agenda, Iloff said Lakewood Church and Pastor Osteen are likely to distance themselves from her.
"Annise says she's a believer. Let her stand before God; that's kind of where Joel is," Iloff noted. "He's not going to tell homosexuals they can't come to our church. If the Holy Spirit convicts them, then they'll change."
Osteen does not affirm homosexual behavior. Though the pastor himself has never specifically called it a "sin," his spokesman Iloff says they believe homosexuality is a sin. But sin is sin and homosexuality is no worse a sin than others, such as adultery, Iloff pointed out.
Lakewood Church maintains good relations with city officials, some of whom attend the megachurch. Two of the City Council members are regular Lakewood attendees. Politicians, however, are not allowed to speak from the pulpit.