The World Council of Churches has allocated grants totaling $587,000 for its controversial Program to Combat Racism, with nearly half the amount designated for anti-apartheid organizations in southern Africa.

The largest single grant, $125,000, went to the South West Africa Peoples Organization, a group seeking the liberation of Namibia from South African control. The funds are designated for "administration and legal defense costs in Namibia and broadcasting and administrative costs" in countries bordering Namibia, according to a WCC statement.

Grants have also been made to the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania and the African National Congress, both liberation movements fighting the continued domination of South Africa by the white minority in that country.

Throughout its 12-year history, the WCC's Program to Combat Racism has been the subject of bitter controversy. Critics charge the council encourages violence by giving to groups, particularly those in Africa where most of the grants have gone, which at times engage in terrorist activities. WCC leaders insist grants are made for specific humanitarian purposes to groups throughout the world actively involved in combatting racism.

In August, the International Salvation Army withdrew its membership from the WCC because of opposition to grants made in 1978 to the Patriotic Front in Rhodesia, now called Zimbabwe. But last month in Salisbury, about 75 Zimbabwe salvationists marched on Salvation Army headquarters there protesting the withdrawal decision and demanding a return to WCC membership. Similar disapproval by salvationists in Kenya has been reported.

Included in the 46 organizations around the world receiving antiracism grants from the WCC is the Washington-based TransAfrica, which received $27,000 to help "mobilize against the Reagan administration's growing partnership with the apartheid regime," according to the WCC. TransAfrica is a national membership organization concerned with influencing U.S. foreign policy toward nations of Africa and the Caribbean.

Other U.S.-based organizations receiving grants include the National Conference of Black Lawyers, the Indian Law Resource Center and an Arizona-based organization working on behalf of undocumented aliens.