Pastor John McFarland in December 2017. Image via

A former San Diego County pastor was arrested in Escondido on suspicion of child molestation, Fountain Valley police said Friday.

John Rodgers McFarland, 56, was arrested Dec. 18 on charges stemming from the alleged abuse of at least one child, police said.

Police executed search warrants at McFarland’s home, as well as current and previous churches where he was employed as head pastor, according to Fountain Valley police, who said evidence exists he may have additional victims in Orange County.

McFarland has been the head pastor at Orangethorpe United Methodist Church in Fullerton since 2014. He 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.

McFarland is facing two felony charges of lewd acts upon a child that are alleged to have occurred in Escondido between July 26, 2012, and July 23, 2013, according to a criminal complaint from the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office obtained by NBC San Diego. The victim was described in the complaint as a girl under the age of 14.

McFarland has a court hearing scheduled at the Vista Courthouse at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 16.

According to a church biography, “Pastor John” grew up in North County and attended San Marcos United Methodist Church.

He received his master’s of divinity from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley in 1978 and a doctor of ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary in June 1999, the bio said.

“After being appointed as an associate pastor at San Dieguito United Methodist Church for three years (1978-81), John became pastor (1981-1988) of the United Methodist Church in Calexico, California,” the site said. “In this border community in the desert of Imperial Valley, John learned the Spanish language and established a bilingual ministry.

“The vitality of that congregation provided shelter for the homeless, El Salvadorian refugees and a powerful ministry to youth. Attendance went from 15 to 120 in his seven years there.”

McFarland and his wife, Kathleen, have five children as well as a Hispanic foster son, Gabriel, from Mexicali, his bio said.

Police asked other victims or anyone else with potential information on crimes committed by McFarland to contact Fountain Valley police Detective Gloria Scott at (714) 593-4480.

— City News Service

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