As the old joke goes, there are two types of people in this world: those who divide everything into two categories, and those who do not. Those familiar with some aspects of Lutheranism, at least in North America, might put the LCMS into the first of these categories, which would make sense. The LCMS tended to avoid at least two aberrations in its theology of the pastoral office (sometimes denoted as "The Office of the Public Ministry"); one aberration could be called "functionalism", which errs in holding that the church (in effect, the local parish), and not God, has established the Office of the Pastoral Ministry as a function of what must be done. The other aberration could loosely be called "neo-sacerdotalism", which holds that the clergy is an office created by God without specific reference to the Word and Sacraments as practised among the local parish, or other corporate manifestation of the church. Perhaps in a similar manner to the various controversies surrounding biblical criticism, the LCMS appears to take an Hegelian approach that does not resolve into the expected "Synthesis". The Thesis and Antithesis continue in the church, the antithesis being condemned, but not to the point where it is entirely extirpated.
In the realm of biblical criticism (itself a modern and contentious term; it is better expressed as biblical studies of some sort) this has meant that the LCMS has embraced the grammatical critical method while rejecting the worst aspects of the historical critical method. The LCMS embraces inerrancy but rejects fundamentalism and their associated ideas of inerrancy as formulated by the Scottish Common Sense philosophical school. When it comes to the pastoral office, the LCMS seems to reject functionalism, but not enough to extirpate any trace of it.
For those of us (including this writer) who believe the pastoral office is created by God and clergy are ordained into it (by God acting through the church), then the action taken by the LCMS convention on July 13th is indeed welcome. The convention decided that “all current candidates and non-candidates be granted candidate status effective immediately” and that “candidate status will be for a period of ten years”. The convention also decided "That all references to non-candidate status be removed from the Bylaws (Bylaw 184.108.40.206, et al)", abolishing the category entirely. This returns the clergy members of the LCMS to something much closer to the earlier "CRM" distinction (yet another acronym; you see this variously described as "Candidatus Reservatus Ministerii" or "Candidatus Reverendi Ministerii"). Clergy who are CRM as ordained to the pastoral office and are willing to take a called position.
At some point, CRM became "Candidate" in the LCMS Handbook, and then there arose yet another distinction, that of "Non-Candidate". So if ordained members of the LCMS are either "Active", "Candidate", "Emeritus" and "Non-Candidate", what, pray tell, would be the point of having "Non-Candidate" members, if all of these are ordained clergy? Having been all of the above (with the exception of "Emeritus", I think), I am at a loss as to what a "Non-Candidate" would be in reality. It appears to be a "distinction without a difference", but I will let the official form for "Application for Inactive Status" explain it:
A "non-candidate" member is one who is eligible to perform the duties of any of the offices of ministry specified in Bylaw section 2.11 but who is not currently an active member or an emeritus member and who chooses not to be a Candidate member. The member may be continued on the roster for a period of up to eight years by act of the president of the district through which the member holds membership. The non-candidate shall, by January 31, make an annual report to the district president who shall evaluate the member's eligibility for remaining on non-candidate status. The non-candidate's report shall include current contact information and the member's efforts to fulfill the responsibilities of an advisory member of the Synod. Non-candidate members are eligible to serve in ministry situations upon approval of their district presidents and according to the guidelines established by the Council of Presidents. The Council of Presidents may grant an extension of non-candidate status for a second period of up to eight years upon request of the appropriate district president.
So how would this differ from "Candidate"? In the one area of greatest importance, it does not differ at all. As the synodical convention stated, "Candidates and non-candidates in good standing are eligible to receive a call (CCM 09-2546)" (CCM, yet another acronym, is "Commission on Constitutional Matters", and the decision is number 09-2546). The other distinctions - willingness to take a call on the part of Non-Candidates and the rather Orwellian language that Candidates demonstrate "a spirit of.cooperation in any efforts to address any unresolved issues involving fitness for ministry" - might be signifigant, but not signifigant enough. Both are eligible to receive and accept calls.
Why would the convention take this step? The obvious answer is that the distinction of clergy who are "Inactive Members" (which created the subsets of Emeritus, Candidate, and Non-Candidate) is an aberration, and was only recently introduced in 1998. The synod realised its mistake, and tried to correct it some 18 years later, some 5 conventions after the one that instituted the aberration. The other answers are more complicated, and deserve further attention in another post. Suffice it to say here that in practice it may have been too tempting to shunt come clergy into the "Inactive Member" categories to avoid dealing with other difficulties (like problem parishes). This is, to say the least, debatable, and I only have anecdotal data about this. But if so, the synod in convention has done quite a bit to disapprove of anything like this practice.