Church membership in this country nearly kept pace with population growth, according to the 1985 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, just published.

Membership figures for 1983, the most recent ones available from the 219 religious bodies included in the yearbook, increased by .87 percent. Population growth that year was estimated at .9 percent.

The yearbook also reported that, for the first time, women made up just over one-fourth of seminarians in the United States and Canada.

Financial contributions rose 7.5 percent over the previous year in the nine U.S. church bodies that are tracked each year for the pattern of giving. This is well above the 3.2 percent inflation rate.

Since 1961, the yearbook reports, annual giving has increased from $69 per member to $278.67. But when inflation is factored in, the increase is the equivalent of from $77 in 1961 to $93 in 1983.

Among the churches reporting the largest membership gains were the Mennonite Church, with 8.66 percent; Church of God, Cleveland, Tenn., 6.5 percent; and the Christian and Missionary Alliance, with 5.46 percent.

James Armstrong, who resigned in 1983 as president of the National Council of Churches and as a bishop of the United Methodist Church, will become visiting professor of preaching at the Methodist-related Iliff School of Theology in Denver.

For the past year, Armstrong, 60, has been on the staff of an international corporate consulting firm and working on a book, which he has said will explain the circumstances of his unexpected resignations and the relinquishing of his clergy credentials.

The general synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church has voted not to admit women to the priesthood and not to allow women ordained elsewhere to function as priests within the Scottish Church.

In the church, which votes by orders, the houses of clergy and laity voted overwhelmingly for the exclusion, but the house of bishops opposed it.

Kesher Israel Congregation, the only Orthodox synagogue in downtown Washington, has a new rabbi. Rod M. Glogower, assumed rabbinic duties yesterday at the congregation's Georgetown Synagogue, 2801 N St. NW. He replaces Rabbi Philip Rabinowitz, who had led the congregation since 1950. Rabinowitz was found slain in his West End home in February 1984 -- a crime that remains unsolved.

Glogower, who received his rabbinic ordination from Midrasha Seminary in Jerusalem, holds master's degrees in Jewish philosophy from Brandeis and Yeshiva University and is a doctoral candidate at Brandeis.

The head of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has called on churches around the country to "intensify efforts" to improve the safety of church buses.

Jim Burnett issued the appeal following the board's investigation of seven major church-bus accidents that resulted in 29 fatalities and 139 injuries. All of the accidents might have been prevented by "simple, low-cost measures," according to a statement released by the board.