Churchill Julius

Bishop, first Archbishop of New Zealand &
Sukkot (The Feast of Tabernacles)


Churchill Julius
Bishop Churchill Julius, ca 1922
, 1st Archbishop of New Zealand

Public Domain

Churchill Julius was bishop of Christchurch from 1890 to 1925 and the first one to be styled “Archbishop of New Zealand”, a position he held from 1922 to 1925. He was also a very able and forthright leader of the church.

Julius father had been doctor to King William IV which is how he came to be born in Richmond Palace he was brought up in a strict evangelical household. He attended Blackheath Proprietary School, then run by Bishop Selwyn’s cousin, Edward Selwyn. After a bout of ill health, Churchill attended King’s College School in London and Worcester College, Oxford.

Oxford was still the centre of the Anglo-Catholic revival. Julius however came under the influence of Canon Christopher of St Aldate’s, the stronghold of evangelicalism in Oxford. Julius was warmed by Christopher’s devout and industrious life, especially during a cholera epidemic. Churchill Julius graduated in 1869, was ordained deacon in 1871 and priest in 1872. He was an evangelical, but with no antipathy to the Oxford Movement.

After several curacies he became vicar of Islington, a London slum. He excelled in the development of a well-organised parish and the provision of activities for the young people. He demonstrated a love of humanity and developed a strong social conscience. Then in 1883 Bishop Thornton of Ballarat, on a visit to England, invited Julius to become archdeacon of Ballarat, and in 1884 he and his family sailed to Australia. Julius again showed himself a gifted motivator in the development of the parish and in particular its educational work. Churchill Julius was nominated to the Diocese of Christchurch in 1889 in succession to Bishop Harper and was consecrated in 1890. New Zealand was entering one of its first periods of industrial turmoil. Julius was involved with labour organisations from the outset’ and used his outstanding eloquence to speak out against cruelty, oppression and tyranny in the workplace. He delivered a stinging attack on competitive individualism and willingly accepted the label “Christian Socialist”, by which he meant social co-operation and organisation with a religious base.

The bishop was a strong proponent of the role of women in the church and in society. In 1893 he secured the services of Sister Edith from the Deaconess Community of St. Andrew to found a community in Christchurch for work in education, nursing and welfare. The community eventually became the Community of the Sacred Name. Julius admired the work of Sisters Etheleen and Geraldine in Dunedin at St Hilda’s School and invited their community, the Sisters of the Church, Kilburn, to establish a school in Christchurch. St Margaret’s College was opened in 1910. In 1916 the bishop surrendered half his stipend (salary) so that it could be used for education, and he moved from Bishopscourt to his own house, and used Bishopscourt to found a teaching order. The teaching order did not eventuate, but the “Bishop’s Hostel”, opened in August 1917, continued for the benefit of teachers’ college and university women students. This became Bishop Julius Hostel (now Bishop Julius Hall).

Within the province as a whole he was a strong advocate of a standing committee of General Synod, which was set up in 1916. Also, though few others agreed with him, he was in favour of a there being an Archbishop set up. The irony was that he was himself was then elected in 1922, and was indeed the first one to be titled “archbishop”, an innovation he opposed, hoping that no-one would call him “Your Grace;” he was a colourful figure who did not have much time for the slavish use of the honorific's. Known as the "Radical Bishop" he is described as one of the most remarkable men who ever donned apron and gaiters. Wise, outspoken, and intensely human, he was one of the master builders of the Anglican Church in N.Z. He retired as bishop of Christchurch and archbishop in 1925.

BORN:15 October 1847. Richmond Palace, Surrey, England.

DIED:1 September 1938, Christchurch, New Zealand.