SANTA ANA (CNS) - An Orange County pastor pleaded not guilty today to felony charges of molesting seven children ages 5 to 15.
John Rodgers McFarland, who has been the head pastor at Orangethorpe United Methodist Church in Fullerton since 2014, was arrested on a warrant Thursday charging him with seven counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor younger than 14 and four counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor 14 to 15 years old.
Bail was set at $2 million for McFarland, who faces up to 179 years to life in prison if convicted, prosecutors said. The 56-year-old Fullerton resident's next scheduled court date is a June 20 pretrial hearing at the West Justice Center in Westminster.
McFarland's attorney, Michael J. Holmes, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The pastor is accused of molesting the children between 2003 and 2017, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office, which did not release the genders of the alleged victims. Prosecutors also did not say where the alleged molestations occurred, but the Fountain Valley Police Department is the lead agency in the Orange County investigation.
McFarland is also facing charges in In San Diego County, where he was arrested and charged in December with molesting a girl younger than 14 between 2012 and 2013. The alleged molestation occurred in Escondido when he was visiting relatives, said Lt. Chris Lick of the Escondido Police Department.
McFarland is due in court in San Diego June 18 for a pretrial hearing and July 9 for a preliminary hearing, according to Tanya Sierra, a spokeswoman for the D.A.'s office in San Diego County.
“We are still determining the outcome of our case in light of the Orange County charges,” she told City News Service.
Orangethorpe church officials said they would not comment on the status of McFarland, who has also served as a volunteer chaplain for Fountain Valley police and firefighters.
According to an online biography, McFarland grew up in North San Diego County, where he was affiliated with San Marcos United Methodist Church. He graduated from the University of La Verne in 1974 and the Pacific School of Religion in 1978, then served as an associate pastor at San Dieguito United Methodist Church for three years before becoming pastor of the Calexico United Methodist Church in 1981.
McFarland was also a pastor at Surf City Church in Huntington Beach between 2009 and 2014, and served as head pastor at Fountain Valley United Methodist Church for 26 years from 1988 to 2014.
Photo: Orange County District Attorney