Rhodesia's former prime minister, Garfield Todd, has defended the World Council of Churches' grant of $85,000 to two black guerrilla groups in his country.

"I am absolutely shocked at the churches' reaction to the World Council gift," the former official said in an interview here.

The council grant to the Patriotic Front of Zimbabwe, announced in August, triggered widespread protest by member churches around the world. Most critics charged the WCC was taking sides in Rhodesian civil strife.

Todd, now 70, has been a longtime foe of white minority rule in the African nation that he and his wife went to as missionaries from New Zealand 44 years ago.

Since 1958, when his liberal racial views cost him his post as prime minister, he has been associated with the struggle for black majority rule. In recent years that has meant support of black liberation movements and their leaders.

Todd denounced the Internal Agreement of last March that present Premier Ian Smith signed with two liberaion leaders, Ndabandingi Sithole and Rhodesian Methodist Bishop Abel Muzorewa.

The former prime minister contended that both Sithole and Muzorewa had lost their credibility with the people of Zimbabwe, as black Rhodesians prefer to be known, through their alliance with Smith.

"They are dependent for the Internal Agreement on the security from the state," he said. "They have set themselves and the security forces against the guerrilla forces; that's civil war."

The tall, courtly Todd was in this country to receive honorary degrees awarded to both him and his wife from Eureka (Ill.) College. He preached last Sunday at National City Christian Church here and also had informal conversations on the Rhodesians situation with members of Congress and the administration.

Todd has served as adviser to black liberation leader Joshua Nkomo, who, with Robert Mugabwe, leads to the Patriotic Front of Zimbabwe. "For the first time in my life, I was a little white cog in an entirely black machine," he said of his experience as a Nkomo aide at the 1976 Geneva talks on Rhodesia.

Todd said that the Patriotic Front has the loyalty of black Rhodesians, who outnumber the whites in the country by more than 20 to one. "I would say the people and the guerrillas are really one," he said.

Rather than criticizing the WCC for its grant to the Patriotic Front, said Todd, the churches should be channeling more assistance to the guerrilla leaders.

"The need is there," he said. "Nkomo won't led the people die. He needs millions just to keep people alive."

One example of the need he cited is refugee cmps in neighboring Botswana and Mozambique containing what he said were "at least 50,000 children" between the ages of 3 and 16. "These children have not been kidnaped" by the guerrillas, as government forces claim, he said. "They have been so harassed (by the government) that they just got tired of it and fled the country."

Todd has no illusions about the atrocities committed by both sides in the war, but has an explanation, at least for some of the guerrilla actions: "In a way, the guerrillas have no options (with a captured prisoner) except to tie him up and let him die or something like that."

He added: "There are Christians on both sides."