The Rev. Dr. Richard F. McFarland, 47, a consultant and administrator at American University and former pastor of Dumbarton United Methodist Church in Georgetown, died of cancer Tuesday at George Washington University Hospital.

Dr. McFarland had worked at American University since 1968. He helped administer advanced seminars run by the College of Public Affairs on international economic development. These seminars were held for scholars and businessmen concerned with Third World problems.

He was pastor of Dumbarton Church from 1964 to 1968.

Dr. McFarland felt that many people in Georgetown were aloof from religion and he wished to reach these people.

During 1964 he began a program of using his church as a "center for dialogue" where couples could drop in on Saturday night, after the show at the nearby Georgetown Theater, and drink coffee while participating in discussions on religion or philosophy.

He felt that "An evening of entertainment, thought, conversation, dance and, finally, worship, would enable a couple to relate a deeper levels, not only with themselves, but God."

Dr. McFarland said he wished to present some of the insights of the Roman Catholic priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and of the Greek poet and author Nikos Kazantzakis, whose writings, he said, illustrate the philosophical quest for life and religious faith free of dogma.

The programs were said to have been a great success.

Dr. McFarland was born in Vincent, Iowa. He earned a bachelor's degree at Simpson College in Iowa, a theology degree at Boston University and a master's degree and doctorate at Americans University.

He served several years in the Navy and worked in Nigeria for a time, helping to build schoolhouses.

He was an associate minister at the United Methodist Church in College Park from 1960, when he moved to this area, to 1964.

Dr. McFarland, was a member of a number of organizations.

He is survived by his wife, Clare M., and two sons, Damian and Judson, all of the home in Washington; his father, Fredrick, a brother, Donald, and four sisters, Marlene Zinnell, Edith Olson, Gayle Gregersen, and Norma Jean Block, all of Iowa, and another sister, Kathleen Marcellus, of Texas.