United Church of Christ

Delegates to the General Synod of the United Church of Christ responded to a moving antiapartheid challenge from South African pastor, the Rev. Allan Boesak, by voting stringent economic pressures against South Africa.

Meeting in Ames, Iowa, the synod called on all UCC units, from local congregations to national agencies, to begin immediately getting rid of all investments in firms that do business with South Africa. Delegates also called on the 1.7 million-member church to boycott products of such firms as well as exports from that country.

The action by the liberal church body, believed to be the strongest divestment measure thus far by any denomination, followed Boesak's denunciation of the white minority government in South Africa as "illegitimate" and "unjust."

Bible-quoting South African government leaders "have betrayed the name of Jesus," he said, with laws that break up families and " rob people of their birthright" by forcing people from their homelands for reasons of race.

Boesak, senior vice president of the South African Council of Churches and president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, said that "the time has now come for the churches to call for economic pressures, including divestment." He added that under South African law, such a statement was considered treasonable, punishable by life in prison or death.

Delegates also approved development of an "ecumenical partnership" with the 1.2 million-member Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) , with the possibility of a merger in the future.

In his keynote address, UCC President Avery Post urged the church to confront some "very delicate issues in internal and external relations." He cited specifically differences with the Roman Catholic Church over abortion, the "seeming put down" by the Vatican of liberation theology and "some strategic tiptoeing in the ecumenical relations . . . that is a puzzling contradiction to the creative openness" in other areas of Catholic-Protestant relations.

Challenging the church to face up to "the wide gulf between the so-called evangelical right and the main line churches," he was sharply critical of the Washington-based Institute on Religion and Democracy, which, he charged, "fronts for some far-right critics of the churches" and which, he said, is guilty of "appalling practices of innuendo, distortion and unbrotherliness and unsisterliness." Central Conference of American Rabbis

The rabbinical organization of Reform Judaism, meeting in Minneapolis, endorsed using synagogues as sanctuaries for refugees from war and persecution. The rabbis criticized recent federal government efforts to prosecute religious leaders involved in the sanctuary movement, while commending member congregations that have taken such steps.

The resolution adopted by the conference said the rabbis "recognize the serious legal implications of such actions and alert the congregations in the recent persecution for assistance and support of these refugees, even as we commit ourselves to support efforts to overturn the administration's legal position."

A resolution that would have discouraged congregations from using bingo and other gambling methods to raise money generated vigorous debate before it was referred for study.

The conference elected Rabbi Jack Stern, Scarsdale, N.Y., president. Rabbi Eugene J. Lipman, who retired last week as senior rabbi of Temple Sinai here, was elected vice president . American Baptist Churches

The American Baptist Convention in Portland, Ore., focused heavily on peace issues, climaxing the consideration with overwhelming support for the nonviolent resolution of international disputes and strong opposition to the arms race.

A resolution to "favor buildup of nuclear weapons" was defeated 1,855 to 97.

The Rev. George W. Hill, senior minister of Calvary Baptist Church here, was awarded the denomination's Edward T. Dahlberg Peace Prize.

Like the Reform rabbis, the American Baptists endorsed participation in the Sanctuary movement. Reformed Church in America

The General Synod of the Reformed Church in America rejected a move by a regional unit to pull the church out of the National Council of Churches and authorized a committee to explore RCA participation in the 9-denomination Consultation on Church Union.

Delegates meeting in Kalamazoo authorized plans to exchange "fraternal delegates" next year with the black Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, and registered their support for the Free South Africa Movement by inviting one of its leaders to address next year's synod. Christian Reformed Church

Delegates to the annual synod of the Christian Reformed Church rejected appeals from 13 of the denomination's 40 regional governing units to overturn the decision of last year's synod to open the office of deacon to women. But delegates reaffirmed that women are still barred from becoming elders and ministers.

Meeting at the denomination's Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., the synod agreed to foster relations with its more liberal ecclesiastical cousin, the Reformed Church in America, by holding some joint worship and fellowship sessions in 1989, when both churches meet in Grand Rapids.

The Christian Reformed delegates formally warned white sister-churches in South Africa that relations between Reformed churches on the two continents are in "grave danger" because the white South African church supports apartheid.