The annual conference of the Church of the Brethren has liberalized its policy on remarriage of divorced persons, reflecting the effect of urbanization on the previously rural religious community.

The new stance was expressed in a 14-page report that was debated three hours during morning and afternoon sessions of the conference's first day of business here.

The conference was attended by delegates from more than 1,000 congregations in the 179,000-member denomination.

Debate on divorce policy reflected two schools of thought, one holding marriage after divorce to be sinful and adulterous, the other recognizing that divorce in some marriages is unavoidable.

Both camps generally agreed it is the church's duty to strengthen marriages so that the rising divorce rate can be reversed.

The denomination's new position calls for church involvement in marriage counseling, but also stresses acceptance and forgiveness of divorce.

The new stance also stresses a need to abandon paternalistic types of marriages and to place the sexes on equal standing in the relationship.

In other actions the conference approved a position paper affirming equality of women in the denomination, but turned down a proposal that would have set quotas for women in church in leadership posts. Such a quota system is in effect in the United Methodist Church, which requires that women occupy 40 per cent of the executive posts in its national boards and agencies.

The Church of the Brethren conference also adopted a position paper on teaching religion ethics in public schools. The paper urges church members to work ecumenically to encourage public schools "to develop or offer course units on moral or ethical values and/or studies about religion" within Supreme Court decisions banning devotional exercises in public schools.

Cora Sparrowk, national secretary of Church Women United, has been elected president of the American Baptist Churches. She succeeds Charles Smith, professor and associatee dean at the University of Washington Law School at Seattle.

Edward D. Garris, secretary of the executive committee of the Virginia Methodist Homes, has been appointed pastor of the Arlington Forest United Methodist Church.

The Revs. Keith Binkley and James Emery, formerly of South Baptist Church in Lansing, Mich., will join the staff of Cherrydale Baptist Church on Military Road, Arlington. Binkley will be in charge of education and administration. Emery will minister in the areas of youth and music.

Dr. Beverly Felty, former superintendent of the Danville District of the Virginia United Methodist Conference, has been appointed pastor of Arlington United Methodist Church. He replaces the Rev. Beverly Watkins, who has served the Arlington Church pulpit for five years.

The Rev. Dr. Paul N. Carnes, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Buffalo, N.Y., has been elected president of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

The Rev. Dr. John W. Turnbull, who served as associate director of the Washington office of the National Council of Churches from 1967 to 1971, has been appointed director of the Boston Theological Institute.