Pledging to lead his church in battle against hunger, injustice, racism and the threat of nuclear war, the Right Rev. Edmond Lee Browning was installed yesterday as the 24th presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in colorful rites at the Washington Cathedral that embraced all sectors of the church.

In his installation address, Browning, who was Bishop of Hawaii when elected in September to the top leadership post, said, "Compassion is at the root of Christian spirituality and mission and . . . the hope of our future."

Dismissing "sentimental spirituality," Browning warned the nearly 4,000 worshipers that "compassion is not a matter of sitting apart and from a distance lavishing our blessings on another. It is a matter of entering the pain and suffering of others and identifying in the brokenness of the world . . . . Compassion calls us to serve the world, not rule it."

He deplored "those in the church who want us only to be a port in the storm, a haven from the troubles of our time."

Throughout his ministry Browning has stressed the need for the church to be inclusive, and the traditional installation rites were adapted to symbolize this theme. Blacks, whites, Asians, Hispanics, American Indians, visually and hearing-handicapped persons, youths and senior citizens had parts in presenting the "signs of ministry."

In an ecumenical gesture believed to be unique, leaders of other churches played a formal part in his installation rites. Lutheran Bishop James R. Crumley Jr., Roman Catholic Bishop of Hawaii Joseph Ferrario, and Metropolitan Theodosius, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, together with Charles Walker, youngest son of Washington Bishop John T. Walker, presented the Bible to Browning.

The three bishops he defeated in his election as presiding bishop each had special roles in his installation rites. They were Walker, Bishop William Frey of Colorado and Bishop William Stough of Alabama.

In his remarks of welcome to the worshipers, Bishop Walker picked up the ecumenical theme, noting that "those of you who represent other communions . . . help to give reality to the sense of this place as a house of prayer for all people."

While the Washington Cathedral was established for the Episcopal Church, he continued, the founders had the hope that "by the time the building was complete, there would be unity in the body of Christ and this cathedral would indeed be a house of prayer for all people."

Anglican bishops and clergy and lay people from other parts of the world, including Bishops Desmond Tutu of South Africa and John M. Watanabe of Japan, added to the international and intercultural flavor of the ceremonies.

Precisely at 10:30 a.m., the solemnly haunting strains of a Hawaiian prayer chant, sung by Marion Kaipo Kalua and Edward Collier of Honolulu, opened the nearly three-hour service. As their last notes fell away, a fanfare of trumpets signaled the start of the colorful procession of crosses, torches, banners, the choir of boys and men, the clergy and canons in their white vestments.

More than 200 of the church's bishops, garbed in robes of crimson and white and ranked in order of their ordination as bishops, marched in stately splendor down the side aisles.

By tradition, Browning had to wait in the vestibule until all were in place, then knock at the west door, symbolically petitioning admission to the cathedral.

"Edmond, bishop in the church of God, we welcome you," said Walker to the smiling figure in cream vestments and mitre, silhouetted in the doorway.

The organ sounded and the worshipers stood on tiptoe, craning their necks to see, as their new spiritual leader moved at a stately pace up the aisle. The cathedral was packed, with folding chairs placed in every space permissible by fire codes, some totally out of sight of the main altar.

In his sermon, Browning spelled out what he saw as the social and political evils the church should address. "Superpowers posture over arms agreements while the lives of our children hang in the balance," he said.

"Unjust governments deny basic human rights while inflicting torture and suffering upon millions of its citizens. We live in an age where we have the technology to feed the world, and instead, millions are hungry and thousands die every day," he continued

"Our rivers, lakes, oceans, air and land are being poisoned. Racism runs rampant. It is hard to overstate the horror that we face."

Meeting with reporters after the service, he said there is a "need for the church to become more in the role of advocate in influencing legislation" on behalf of the poor.

Browning made no reference in his address to the question of ordaining women, which his predecessor, John Maury Allin, opposed. But his support for women priests was evident in his selection of Deacon Dorothy Nakatsuji as one of his attendants at the service and of Deacon Gladys L. Hall to read the gospel.