I would advise you avoid the issue until you have a complete plan and all your ducks in a row. From what you've posted here you are not ready and I believe you are missing quite a few details.
For what it's worth....I have a pretty complete plan of what I believe needs to be done. What I'm looking mostly for is advice, which you have given in spades, so I thank you for that.
First, have you thoroughly studied the history of the church? Within the church minutes (from start to end) can be some real clues to how you should handle this. Has a pastor in the past abused some power which may still be an issue for some? This may effect how you should approach this issue. Has the church in the distant past (as many conservative Baptists have) voted people out of fellowship for various reasons? This can be a historical precedence which you can use in your favor.
No I haven't really studied they church's history. There really isn't any written history available. There are a lot of stories, but no past minutes I could delve into. I do know a bit about past issues, but there simply isn't a place where I can go and study them.
Second, talk with your leaders. Don't hit the issue head on. Find out through conversation what they think about the problems.
The deacons are in agreement with me....well not 100% but mostly! One deacon said he wants it to stay the same because he's been a southern baptist for 50 years and that's how they've always done it! He did say that he wouldn't speak out against the changes we are making, but with his secret ballot he said he would most likely vote against it. He is a very wonderful man, and I greatly appreciate his candor...and I've told him that in front of the rest of the deacons. There are a couple of bell-cows, that I have become very close with. I've never differed with them on anything, but the relationship is there so that I should be able to bend, not break in the process. One of the bell-cows said they'de like to be on the review committee. I think that's a great idea, since, if I can get it by this person, many will be swayed.
Next, find out what your folks have been taught. I know they're Baptists but that does not mean they've been taught these distinctives and thier proper meaning. Rather, they may have been following traditions and teachings which are wrong Biblically. Since they're conservative Baptist this means you've a great tool at your disposal. THE BIBLE!
This is going to be the subject of my next sermon series. To be started right after Easter. IMO what makes us distinctively baptist is our theology. To many of them it is the traditions. I'm planning on a "Church 101" series that addresses things like membership, baptism, traditions, as well as baptist distincives.
Next, what other leaders do your people (both leaders & congregants) respect?
That could be treading dangerous waters. There's a lot who like the TBN crowd here. I think it has a lot to do with the Southern Gospel music they have on all the time. There are a lot of people who watch and listen to people I consider poor teachers and even worse theologians. BUT...since the Gaither's have been on their show they're ok!!
You may want to seriously think about the objections as well. For instance, will you make exceptions in your roll requirements for shut-ins and active military?
I've thought a bit about this as well. Shut-ins are fairly numerous in our community, but they probably only compose 1-2% of our congregation. We would certainly make provisions for the above mentioned people though.
Last but never least, PRAY, PRAY, PRAY!
I can honestly say that I've gone to the Lord about this more than just about anything else I've done at our church. I know I could force change on them...have them buck...lose some members, perhaps wear out my welcome. But that's not how God wants things done. I'm more oncerned with making them see what scripture has to say, and how we need to adjust so that we are in accordance with God's word.
I really appreciate your thoughs and comments. I would readily welcome any more insight any of you have to add.
church membership is a manmade distinction that is irrelevant -- if i actively attend your church, then why would i need to become a member? -- the voting bit, to me, would be something any in attendance could do -- it sounds like this org has unnecessary obstacles in place that keep people outside the church doors -- why on earth would we want to do that?
Actually church membership here in the south is VERY important. At our church you cannot lead a bible study, be on any committee's, have a vote or lead any type of class at all unless you are a member. The boting thing you CANNOT do if you have church by-laws that say "only members can vote." And yes....there are a number of obstacles in place at our church....that's what this is all about! At this point I don't need comments about our problems....I need comments about what can be our solution.
Thanks again for your input though. I do welcome advise from any and all comers!