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Orange County pastor arrested on suspicion of child molestation

An Orange County pastor faces charges stemming from the alleged abuse of at least one child, police said.

ESCONDIDO (NEWS 8) – An Orange County pastor faces charges stemming from the alleged abuse of at least one child, police said.

Escondido police arrested John Rodgers McFarland, 66, December 18 on suspicion of child molestation. Escondido police said they arrested McFarland at his Fullerton home for molesting a relative under the age of 14 while visiting family in Escondido several years ago.

Escondido police say they started the child molestation investigation against the pastor, who is also a police chaplain, in November 2018. Fullerton and Fountain Valley police served a search warrant at McFarland’s Fullerton home, his place of employment and Fountain Valley United Methodist Church. 

“Based on the fact that he has ties to the Orange County area, we believe there might be additional victims,” said Detective Gloria Scott with the Fountain Valley Police Department.

Detective Scott said prior to serving as head pastor at the the Orangethorpe United Methodist Church, McFarland was also head pastor at Fountain Valley UMC for 26 years and briefly served at Surf City Church in Huntington Beach. 

“We have reason to believe there are other victims,” said Detective Scott.

According to the Orangethorpe United Methodist Church’s website, McFarland has been in ministry for 40 years and is married with five children - all but one are adults.

Detectives wouldn't comment on what evidence they have to believe there are additional potential victims.

“We are looking for anyone who has been a victim or may know of a victim,” added Detective Scott.

The church has not commented. Michael Holmes, a listed criminal defense lawyer emailed News 8 stating McFarland is represented by an attorney and asked that we refrain from contacting the pastor. The lawyer has not followed up with a statement. 

Anyone with information in this case is asked to contact the Fountain Valley Police Department at (714) 593-4480.

McFarland is out on bail. He is scheduled to appear in a Vista courtroom January 16, 2019.

The United Methodist Church has issued a statement saying,

We have become aware that Rev. Dr. John R. McFarland, a clergyperson of the California-Pacific Conference, was recently arrested by local law enforcement authorities.

The United Methodist Church unequivocally opposes abuse or misconduct of any kind, especially against children. For that reason, we are engaged in this matter as a top priority and we are fully cooperating with law enforcement.

I have suspended Rev. McFarland, effective immediately, from all clergy duties and from his local church while investigations proceed. This action is consistent with our Book of Discipline and confirmed by the Appointive Cabinet as well as by the Board of Ordained Ministry of the California-Pacific Conference of The United Methodist Church. The West District Superintendent, Rev. Mark Nakagawa, will assume executive oversight of Orangethorpe United Methodist Church.

In this difficult time, let us be in prayer for all affected.

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