The Most Revd Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the US Episcopal Church and the first woman primate in the Anglican Communion, presided and preached at Southwark Cathedral on Sunday morning.
Women have been consecrated as bishops in the Episcopal Church in the USA since 1989. The Church of England is still in the process of making arrangements for women to be able to become bishops in this country amid considerable controversy.
Dr Jefferts Schori was elected as presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in 2006 and has infuriated conservative elements in the worldwide Anglican Communion with her liberal views on the ordination of homosexual men and women as priests and bishops.
Extra chairs were set out in the cathedral's side aisles to accommodate the many visitors who came to hear the presiding bishop. After the Eucharist a long queue of people waited to greet Dr Jefferts Schori in person.
Speaking before the visit, the Dean of Southwark Very Revd Colin Slee said: "I am really pleased that Dr Jefferts Schori has agreed to preach and preside at Southwark Cathedral.
"We have had a number of primates come to visit us in this way and it is always a great blessing to hear from and learn about other parts of the Anglican Communion."
15 evangelical clergy from the Diocese of Southwark signed a letter to The Times criticising the Dean's decision to invite Dr Jefferts Schori to preach in the cathedral.
"We, the undersigned clergy of Southwark diocese, distance ourselves from Bishop Schori's teaching and presiding in our cathedral.
"We seriously question the judgment of those who have not withdrawn their invitation to her after her recent consecration of Mary Glasspool."
Mary Glasspool is a bishop in Los Angeles and the first openly lesbian bishop in the Anglican Communion.
The Church of England Evangelical Council also described the decision to invite the presiding bishop to Southwark as "provocative and discourteous to the Archbishop of Canterbury".