Fullerton pastor John Rogers McFarland entered not guilty pleas on Monday during an arraignment on 11 counts of child molestation. If convicted of all charges against him, the 67-year-old faces a maximum sentence of 179 years to life. Police arrested McFarland on Thursday; Orange County District Attorney prosecutors allege that the molestation of seven children between the age of five and 15 happened between 2003 and 2017.
The Weekly interviewed pastor McFarland at Orangethorpe United Methodist Church in Fullerton for a 2017 cover story about the LGBT rift within the mainline Protestant denomination.
Standing 6’7”, McFarland made for an imposing figure. Well-versed in scripture, the pastor sided with fellow conservatives in backing the UMC’s Book of Discipline statement holding that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
Adopted in 1972, those words established official boundaries against marrying same-sex couples and ordaining LGBT clergy, ones reaffirmed with added penalties during an emotional, controversial General Conference vote in St. Louis, Missouri this February. With liberal pastors having both openly defied and secretly subverted the Book of Discipline’s LGBT policies, especially in the church’s west coast California-Pacific conference, McFarland favored an official split over the row.
He thumbed through his worn Bible for the Weekly until arriving to Romans 1.
“Though they knew God, they did not honor him or give thanks to him,” the pastor read aloud with conviction. “Women exchanged the natural functions for that which is unnatural, and in the same way, man abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another. Men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.”
Now, McFarland stands accused of seven felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor under the age of 14. The other four felony counts are for the same crime with a minor between the ages of 14 and 15. Authorities first arrested the pastor in Escondido last December when a girl came forward with child molestation allegations against him. During the course of the investigation, new evidence became available, leading to his arrest again this month.
“The United Methodist Church unequivocally opposes abuse or misconduct of any kind, especially against children,” said Bishop Grant Hagiya in December when McFarland first got arrested. “For that reason, we are engaged in this matter as a top priority and we are fully cooperating with law enforcement.” Consistent with the Book of Discipline, Hagiya immediately suspended McFarland from all clergy duties and placed Reverend Mark Nakagawa in charge of overseeing Orangethorpe UMC.
In addition to preaching at Orangethorpe UMC in Fullerton, McFarland also served as pastor of Surf City Church in Huntington Beach between 2006 and 2011. With decades of preaching behind him, his longest tenure came at Fountain Valley United Methodist Church where he was senior pastor from 1988 until coming over to Fullerton in 2016. He also served as volunteer chaplain for Fountain Valley’s police and fire departments.
McFarland is due back in court on June 20. He remains in Orange County Jail on $2 million bail.
Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!