Churchill Julius

Bishop, first Archbishop of New Zealand


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 “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 was a doctor to King William IV which is how he came to be born in Richmond Palace, but into 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 the centre of the Anglo-Catholic revival, but Julius was influenced by 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.

Working in the slums of London as vicar of Islington, he developed a strong social conscience. Then in 1883 Bishop Thornton of Ballarat, on a visit to England, invited Julius to become archdeacon of Ballarat,in 1884 he and his family sailed to Australia. Julius showed himself a gifted motivator in the development of the parish, especially in educational work. He was nominated to the Diocese of Christchurch in 1889 & 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.

A strong advocate of the role of women in church and 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. This 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, moving from Bishopscourt to his own house. Bishopscourt became the “Bishop’s Hostel”, opening in August 1917, for the benefit of teachers’ college and university women students (now called Bishop Julius Hall).

Churchill Julius played an active role in the moves which led to the completion of Christchurch cathedral, consecrated in 1904. He attended the Lambeth Conference of bishops in 1897 and 1920, and was the principal instigator of moves which led to the creation of the Standing Committee of the General Synod in 1916. Although few others agreed with him, he was NOT in favour of a there being an Archbishop, he was then elected to the position in 1922, the first to be titled “archbishop”, 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 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, 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.