Two Anglican bishops, Desmond Tutu, a black, and Timothy Bavin, a white, were among 53 persons arested today as they marched from a church to a downtown Johannesburg police station to demand the release of a fellow cleric.

Spectators said the marchers, mostly clergymen, were singing "Onward, Christian Soldiers" when police stopped them at a busy downtown intersection and loaded them into vans. The marchers' applications for bail were refused and court appearance were scheduled for Tuesday.

At the all-Colored University of Western Cape, police used tear gas to force students out of a cafeteria where they were meeting and then charged them with batons to disperse them. The police were called in when the students organized their meeting in defiance of an order by the dean last week against assemblies on campus.

Security police arrested a large number of people over the weekend in the Cape Province. Security police would not disclose how many were detained. However, a Cape Town newspaper said more than 60 people, many of them black and Colored students, were arrested.

Rev. Abel Hendrickse of the all-Colored Labor Party warned that the widespread detentions would fuel resentments and add to the present tension.

In the Johannesburg area, 1,939 persons were arrested over the weekend in what police described as a crime prevention drive. More than 800 persons were arrested in connection with offenses falling under South Africa's pass laws, which regulate the movement of blacks throughout the country.

Those arrested today along with Tutu and Bavin, who is the Anglican bishop of Johannesburg, were: the Rev. Simeon Nkoane, the Anglican dean of Johannesburg; Leah Tutu, Bishop Tutu's wife; the Rev. Peter Storey, senior vice president of the South African Council of Churches; and the Rev. Joseph Wing, of the United Congressional Church.

The clerics were passing out pamphlets asking for the release of the Rev. John Thorne, a Colored (mixed race) Congregational minister. Thorne was detained on Saturday under the country's security laws for his support of a classroom boycott by mostly Colored students protesting discrimination in the South African educational system. Thorne was released from custody today, according to church sources.

Tutu, who is general secretary of South African Council of Churches, is an extremely popular figure among blacks and equally unpopular with the white government of South Africa. His passport was taken away from him in March to prevent him from traveling abroad.

Tutu is an outspoken opponent of apartheid and has advocated economic boycotts of South African products as a way to pressure the government into altering its racial policies.