There has been some controversy regarding the dress code allegedly being introduced by the power-hungry Russian Orthodox Church. I am writing ‘power-hungry’ only to emphasize that if this were true, it would indeed be a threat. However, I don't think that this is what is really happening. My following comments are tied to this article on Fr Milovan's blog Again and Again…
The Church has the right and the responsibility to provide guidelines for personal dress and grooming outside the temple enclosure—remember, I said, guidelines—because that is entirely scriptural, and it does not have to become a legalism: it is simply pious good sense. Isn't Christianity the way of salvation both in this world and in the next? So, we shouldn't be shocked or offended if any church provides such guidelines. This is not a step in the direction of shari‘ah law.
As for personal dress and grooming inside the temple enclosure, that is, inside worship, inside the church buildings and environment, in visits to monasteries, etc., the Church has every right and responsibility to lay down not mere guidelines, but rules.
Sorry, I really do believe that.
I am a Greek Orthodox in America, and so I belong to one of the most liberal, if not the most liberal Orthodox Church in the world, and I still feel this way. The way both women and men dress during services is often very careless and even seductive. Well, no matter. People do reap what they sow, just as is hinted at by the ROC pronouncements.
‘Rules are for slaves and for riff-raff’ paraphrasing the Alexandrian philosopher Hypatia in the film Agora, and in real world terms, rules really are there to mentor immature Christians (no matter what age they are) into a place of maturity and self-control, self-mastery.
The Greek Church in America is being recklessly hopeful that we are all already so mature that dress codes in ordinary church environments are not necessary, but no monastery is going to allow that, Greek or otherwise. They know better.
A Christian, especially an Orthodox Christian, shows obedience to Christ by obedience to the Church as an institution. Yes, the Church has sometimes overstepped its authority in some areas, but dress code is not one of them, and we can thank the Lord that He has still preserved our ancient Commonwealth wherever it has spread, in the ways of piety and peace.