A longtime Orange County pastor was charged Monday with child molestation based on allegations that he abused seven children — one as young as 5 — over a 14-year period, according to prosecutors.
John Rodgers McFarland, 67, is facing seven felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor under the age of 14 and four felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor between 14 and 15, according to Orange County Superior Court records.
McFarland was arrested last week and is being held in Orange County Jail in lieu of $2-million bail.
Prosecutors allege the abuse occurred between 2003 and 2017. Authorities have not specified where McFarland met the children. However, he has worked as a pastor — first in San Diego County and then in Orange County — since the late 1970s, according to prosecutors and public records.
McFarland served as a youth pastor at the San Dieguito United Methodist Church in Encinitas from 1978 to 1981 and attended Christian youth camps during his ministry. His first appointment as senior pastor was at Calexico United Methodist Church, where he served from 1981 to 1988, according to prosecutors.
From 1988 to 2016, he worked as the senior pastor at Fountain Valley United Methodist Church. He was a pastor at Surf City Church in Huntington Beach between 2011 and 2016.
Prosecutors said McFarland has been the head pastor at Orangethorpe United Methodist Church in Fullerton since 2016. His name is listed on the church’s website as a current pastor.
A woman who answered the phone at the church Monday declined to comment.
McFarland also has served as a volunteer chaplain for the Fountain Valley Police Department and the city’s Fire Department, according to prosecutors.
Last year, prosecutors in San Diego County filed charges against him alleging that he had molested a girl who was younger than 14.
According to the criminal complaint, the San Diego County charges stem from incidents in 2012 and 2013. Other details such as the alleged victim’s age have not been made public. McFarland has pleaded not guilty in that case.
As part of last year’s investigation, search warrants were issued for his home as well as churches where he has worked, police said. Investigators said they found evidence that he abused other victims during his time as a pastor in Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach.
If convicted in Orange County, McFarland faces a maximum sentence of 179 years to life in prison.
Times Community News staff writer Julia Sclafani contributed to this report.