The retail arm of the largest US Protestant denomination has apologized to Asian Americans for using stereotypical images including rickshaws.

For its summer Bible school, a unit of the Southern Baptist Convention promoted to children a "Far Out Far East Rickshaw Rally: Racing to the Son." Advertisements included images of the hand-pulled cart as well as other Asian motifs including boxes of Chinese takeout food.

Community advocates protested after the advertisement came out in 2004, saying it cast Asian Americans in stereotypical, foreign imagery associated with poverty.

Lifeway Christian Resources -- which runs more than 160 Baptist stores across the United States, mostly in the South -- apologized nearly a decade later and said that its staff would work to show more sensitivity in the future.

"I am sincerely sorry stereotypes were used in our materials, and I apologize for the pain that they caused," Thom Rainer, the president and CEO of the retailer, told a multiethnic church conference in California on Wednesday.

The retailer had earlier pulled the advertisement but defended it, with a previous executive accusing critics of making "inflammatory" charges of racism.

The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest religious denomination in the United States after the Roman Catholic Church and has historically been identified with conservative views.

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