Activist Catholics, who only a few years ago were grumbling about their bishops' collective inattention to social justice causes, met in Baltimore last week to explore how they can keep up with the new image the bishops have given their church through the antinuclear pastoral.

Some 400 lay persons, priests and nuns spent nearly three days exploring a variety of justice issues in a conference sponsored by more than 30 Catholic organizations, ranging from the Holy Name Society to the New Ways Ministries.

The conference focused on the theme "The Challenge of Being Catholic and American in the 1980s."

The Rev. Bryan Hehir, who directs the international justice and peace office for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the participants that Catholics can no longer view social justice ministries as optional but as "essential to the faith."

Hehir, who carried the major responsibility for preparation of the war and peace pastoral adopted by the bishops last May, warned that the church must be as concerned about justice issues internally as in the world at large. He cited particularly "the oppression of women in the church" as one of the most serious justice issues facing the church.

During issue briefing sessions, participants crowded workshops on such topics as Central America, nuclear arms, human rights and women's and ethnic issues, while a workshop on "Defending the Unborn" drew only a handful.

Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville and Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring have signed an agreement for a joint program to train students in health care ministry.

Holy Cross, operated by the Roman Catholic Sisters of the Holy Cross, will supervise the training of both the supervisor and five students from Shady Grove in clinical pastoral education. The program prepares religious workers for a specialized ministry to the sick.

After completion of his training at Holy Cross, Shady Grove's chaplain, the Rev. Doug Griffin, will be eligible to administer a similar program at his hospital.

Holy Cross officials said the joint training venture is the first in the area involving hospitals of differing religious affiliations.

The state of California ordered television preacher Robert Schuller to pay $473,000 in back property taxes Thursday, declaring the minister's Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove was used for concerts and other commercial events.

The five-member Board of Equalization, in its first major ruling in the two-year-long tax battle, voted unanimously to force Schuller to pay the bill by Aug. 31, covering taxes owed from 1979 through 1982.

The panel ruled Schuller's $31 million organization, which he has described as a "star of hope to a hurting world," was not eligible for certain tax exemptions as a church.

He has the right of appeal, said Gordon Adelman, chief of property taxes for the board. But he said the board's next meeting is not expected until October--well after the Aug. 31 deadline. That means Schuller's church "will have to pay the tax or have a lien fixed," Adelman said. If he wins on appeal, Adelman added, the money would be reimbursed.

Schuller and his attorneys were not present at the board's hearing.

Both Reform and Conservative Jewish groups in Israel are stepping up their struggle with the Israeli government to be officially recognized as Jewish religious organizations, a status currently accorded only Orthodox Judaism.

The Reform movement in Israel announced plans to submit a formal request to have two of its leading rabbis there recognized as marriage registrars. Under present arrangements, only Orthodox rabbis may officiate at a marriage of Jews in Israel (Other arrangements are available for non-Jews) even though a minority of Israelis consider themselves Orthodox.

The Conservative movement is also pressing for formal recognition following an incident in which a group of Hassidic Jews interrupted Bar Mitzvah celebrations being conducted by a Conservative rabbi for underprivileged children.

Bishop-elect John Richard Keating will be ordained a bishop and installed as Bishop of Arlington at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More, Glebe Road and Arlington Boulevard. Admission is by ticket only, but a reception following will be open to the public.

The Rev. David A. Preisinger has resigned as pastor of First Trinity Lutheran Church in Washington to accept a three-year appointment as lecturer at Paulinum Theological Seminary in Namibia.

The Rev. Marvin T. Tollefson Jr., formerly of Billerica, Mass., is the new pastor of Christ Lutheran Church of Bethesda.

The Rev. Dr. Smallwood E. Williams, presiding bishop of Bible Way Church, has been awarded the 1983 gold medal of the Religious Heritage of America. Cardinal John Krol of Philadelphia has been named clergyman of the year. Dee Jepson, special assistant to the president, is one of the business and professional honorees.

The Rev. Joe Giordano has been named director of development of Missionhurst, a Roman Catholic missionary order with headquarters in Arlington.