(RNS) — Crystal Cheatham calls it the “same old story.”
The Philadelphian grew up in a conservative Seventh-day Adventist home and learned, when she came out as a lesbian, that “there wasn’t room for me in that space.”
She also learned, as she met people from other denominations who also felt marginalized by churches, of a widespread disconnect — "a large chasm between conservative Christianity ... and the Christianity I was experiencing.”
That’s where the idea for the Our Bible app came from.
After three developers, 18 months, a successful Indiegogo campaign and late nights raising funds as a Lyft driver, Cheatham recently released "Our Bible" — described on its website as a “meditation app for LGBTQ Christians, their friends, family and allies."
But it was designed for people who feel marginalized by their churches for any number of reasons — not just their sexual orientation, she said.
There are other Bible apps, and three break the Top 10 free apps in the reference category in Apple’s app store. Many allow conservative Christians “to reach out in need of something spiritual or worshipful or will allow them to meditate or find community,” according to Cheatham, 32.
But, she said, there wasn't a similar hub for Christians with doubts or with differing interpretations of what the Bible says about LGBTQ relationships, about race and social justice, or about women in the church.
The Our Bible app encourages all kinds of writers to contribute, she said.
"We have people writing about black and brown portrayals of Jesus or seeing Jesus as a metaphor on the subway," she said. And thanks to the diversity of the app's contributors — "female theologians and reverends and people from really all over the globe" — she expects Our Bible to attract an equally diverse group of users, including "those who find themselves drawn to more conservative apps.”
Some have asked Cheatham if she is rewriting the Bible.
No, she said.
Our Bible features the same translations of the Bible found in other apps, such as the King James Version and New American Standard Bible. But it also features podcasts, books and devotionals in categories such as “Social Justice As Worship,” “Bible Free Meditations” and “LGBTQI Spirituality.”
Another critique of Our Bible, found in a review in Apple's app store, questions whether an app for progressive Christians exacerbates the tendency of progressive and conservative Christians to avoid listening to one another.
But reviews are overwhelmingly positive. Users note they don’t have churches in their areas where they can have such conversations or places they can find similar resources. One five-star reviewer praised its devotions as “actually relevant and edifying for my life.”
That’s the reaction Cheatham says she received when the app was released during the Q Christian Fellowship Conference in Denver last month.
It's gratifying, Cheatham said, to see that the app fills a need, and that she was right to follow her instinct to create it.
And she expressed deep gratitude for those who helped make the app possible: "It's great to know there’s community out there."