The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson and the Rev. Jerry Falwell -- saying they still preferred to disagree over U.S. policy toward the apartheid practices of South Africa -- appeared together tonight at a dramatic service that capped a day-long series of protests here.
Falwell and Jackson both preached to an overflowing audience of 1,500, nearly half of whom were white, at the predominately black Court Street Baptist Church.
The service marked a restrained conciliation between the two men on a day that had begun with national and local civil rights leaders assailing Falwell for his contention that economic sanctions against the Pretoria government would only hurt South African blacks.
Falwell, head of the Moral Majority organization based here, returned earlier this month from a tour of South Africa and advocated increased investments there. He also said Nobel prize winner Desmond Tutu was "a phony" who did not speak for a majority of black South Africans. He has since apologized for the remark, which he said was misinterpreted.
Shortly before the service, Falwell and Jackson met privately for 45 minutes and then rode together to the church.
Speaking first at tonight's service, Falwell was politely but unenthusiastically received as he suggested that South Africa be allowed to reform its segregationist policies gradually.
"We are not where we ought to be but we are a long way from where we used to be," Falwell said, referring to racial attitudes in his native Lynchburg. He said many blacks are now members of his Thomas Road Baptist Church here.
Jackson, whose speech drew several standing ovations, praised Falwell for attending the service but severely criticized the Reagan administration policy of constructive engagement.
"Take the profit out of apartheid and you cut its motive for injustice," Jackson said.
"When I went to South Africa, I could not speak with the president," Jackson said, referring to Falwell's meeting with President P.W. Botha.
"Since you know him and I know you," Jackson said to Falwell, "tell Botha that justice delayed is justice denied. Tell Botha that the blood of the innocent is on his hands."
Earlier in the day, as protesters ended a march at Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church, he invited them to join him in services but was greeted with catcalls and signs that labeled him a racist. Falwell had placed his a sign of his own on the steps of the church, reading: "We are against apartheid too . . . Jerry Falwell."
Police estimated the crowd at 300.
Falwell insisted at a news conference today that "all the blacks I spoke with" in South Africa opposed disinvestment and that the "reformist" government of South African President Pieter W. Botha is in danger of falling to Soviet-backed communists.
"Falwell is a liar," said Rev. Howard Hans, a minister from Port Elizabeth, South Africa, who spoke at a protest rally earlier in the day at the Court Street Baptist Church. "Constructive engagement has been a disaster . . . . Falwell is the phony."
Many of today's events left the specifics of U.S. foreign policy aside and were steeped instead in rhetoric and deep religious symbolism.
At the Court Street rally, a casket was lying in front of the pulpit.
"That casket represents apartheid rigor mortis that has already set in and if we don't bury it soon, it will infect us," said Emmett Burns, regional director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Also speaking at the rally was Judy Goldsmith, serving her last day as president of the National Organization for Women. Goldsmith, who is white, said that Falwell "has reached a new high in lows . . . . It is time to call a hypocrite a hypocrite and a racist a racist."
This brought the predominantly black audience to its feet, cheering more loudly than for any other speaker.
"It may be tempting to dismiss Falwell as a buffoon, he is such a caricature of himself," Goldsmith said. But, she added, because of Falwell's close ties to the Reagan White House, "we can't dismiss him as a crackpot."
Falwell countered the attacks later in the day by charging that advocates for disinvestment are setting him up as a "straw man," and call everyone with whom they disagree a racist.
"We totally agree on the need to end apartheid, but we disagree about the means," Falwell said. ". . . But it is very hard to negotiate with someone who says he can look inside your heart and know how you feel. They can yell and call me names all they want, I'm going to keep telling the truth."
He repeated his belief that, after meeting with Botha, he is convinced the South African president is a "sincere, well-intentioned" man who can bring about reforms. Falwell said South Africa has the greatest potential of any African nation for becoming a "true democracy" on the continent.
He blasted "the terrible double standard of international leaders" who criticize South Africa while allegedly ignoring the plight of Marxist-controlled African nations, and he said that because of South Africa's rich mineral resources it is essential that the country be kept out of the Soviet sphere of influence