Churchill Julius was born at Richmond, Surrey, England, on 15 October 1847, the son of Frederic Gilder Julius, a surgeon, and his wife, Ellen Hannah Smith. He first attended a private day school in Richmond, then the Blackheath Proprietary School, and finally the junior department of King's College, London. He graduated BA from Worcester College, Oxford, in 1869 and MA in 1873. The University of Oxford conferred a doctorate of divinity on Julius in 1893 and the University of Cambridge a doctor of laws degree in 1920.
Julius was ordained deacon in 1871 and priest in 1872. He was curate of St Giles, Norwich (1871–73), and South Brent, Somersetshire (1873–75), before becoming vicar of Shapwick (1875–78), and Holy Trinity, Islington (1878–84). From 1884 to 1890 he was vicar of the cathedral parish in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, and archdeacon of Ballarat. Julius was consecrated Anglican bishop of Christchurch, New Zealand, on 1 May 1890.
The predominant early religious influences on Churchill Julius were evangelical and low church in character, although he had some contact with the Oxford movement in his student years. His appointment to Holy Trinity, Islington, suggests that he continued to be well regarded in evangelical circles. Increasingly, however, he came to sympathise with liberal high church views, and once described himself as 'Perhaps…an evangelical Broad Churchman with High Church views, or perhaps…a Broad High Churchman with loving sympathy for everybody who differs with me.'
Generosity of spirit, informed by first-hand experience of slum conditions in London, helped shape and sharpen Julius's views on social issues. While in Ballarat his defence of London dock strikers gained him notoriety. 'I am a Socialist', he said in 1891, 'because I find Socialism in every page of the New Testament.' This aptly suggests the content and emphasis of his social message. Julius avoided recommending specific changes in economic and social arrangements but urged the abandonment of individualism, and the co-operation of capital and labour. Despite some vagueness Julius was, nevertheless, a staunch defender of trade unions and a ready critic of poor working conditions at a time when such views were not fashionable among Anglican church leaders.
Early in his episcopate Julius criticised attempts to legislate for prohibition, believing that moral persuasion would be more effective. Later, influenced by the abuses of the liquor trade and impressed by the enactment of prohibition in the United States, Julius came to support this cause.
However, education was the issue on which Julius was most persistently vocal. Early in 1892 he appointed a commission to consider the work of the church in this area. Addressing his diocesan synod in 1899 Julius remarked that 'We regard the secularization of education as not merely indifferent, but actively hostile to religion.' He fostered the work of existing denominational schools such as Christ's College and the Cathedral School and was instrumental in the foundation (in 1910) of St Margaret's College for girls; he was less successful in his efforts to encourage the development of parochial day schools. In 1916 a permanent Sunday school organiser was appointed; two years later the Christchurch Diocesan Board of Education was created.
Julius was a strong supporter of moves to inject some form of religious teaching into the public schools and urged co-operation with non-Anglicans in such moves. He had hopes of establishing both an institution for training teachers and an Anglican teaching order. These schemes came to nothing, but assisted by funds from the bishop's own income The Bishop's Hostel (Bishop Julius Hostel) provided accommodation for female students at the nearby teachers' training college and university from 1917. He was a member of the board of governors of Canterbury College from 1891 to 1904 and from 1905 to 1919.
Churchill Julius left several enduring legacies from his episcopate. He played an active role in the moves which led to the completion of Christchurch cathedral, consecrated in 1904. Toleration was extended to Anglo-Catholicism in the diocese. Bishop Henry Harper's ruling in the Carlyon case in 1877 had helped to open the way to this, but Julius seems to have been even more positive in his attitudes. He gave a ruling favourable to C. E. Perry, vicar of the Church of St Michael and All Angels, over the introduction of Anglo-Catholic ritual. Julius had been impressed, while curate at South Brent, by the social service work of women in religious orders. On a visit to England in 1893 he obtained the services of Sister Edith Mellish to found what was at first envisaged as an order of deaconesses, but which became, in 1912, the Community of the Sacred Name.
The duties that Julius performed were not solely diocesan. 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. He was, however, unsuccessful both in attempts to establish the primatial see in Wellington and also in his opposition to the adoption of the title archbishop. In 1922 the General Synod elected him primate and archbishop but he held the office only until his retirement in 1925.
Julius married Alice Frances Rowlandson at Bournemouth, Hampshire, England, on 18 June 1872; they had five daughters and three sons. By comparison with her husband, Alice Julius remains a shadowy figure. She was active in a variety of organisations, but seems to have been, perhaps because of ill health, a reserved person. Although she managed her household effectively she was, in public, overshadowed by her voluble and extroverted husband. She predeceased him by some 20 years.
Churchill Julius died in Christchurch on 1 September 1938 aged 90. He was a gifted speaker, tolerant in many respects, and forward looking. He was a long-time advocate of the right of women to participate in the Anglican church's governing bodies and reacted positively to biblical criticism. He did not altogether transcend the limitations of his time and opposed contraception partly on the ground that it would diminish the English-speaking population. But he quickly, and on the whole deservedly, became respected for his wide sympathies, liberality and eloquence. He was noted, too, for his mechanical ingenuity. While a student he devised a tea-making machine; in old age he built a grain feeder for hens, and was an expert clock maker. Regrettably his election as primate came late in his episcopate and diminished what might have been a more decisive impact on the national scene.