Margaret E. Courtney, 64, an employe of the book division of U.S. News & World Report who wa active in church affairs, died of cancer Wednesday at her home in Temple Hills.

Mrs. Courtney was head of the Sunday School at the St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, where her husband, the Rev. Ward Courtney, is an associate pastor. She also was active in the Women of St. Barnabas. Earlier, she had been the head of the Sunday School at St. John's Episcopal Church Broadcreek in Oxon Hill.

In 1974, after her husband had been disabled in an automobile accident, Mrs. Courtney went to work for U.S. News & World Report. At the time of her death, she was engaged in the distribution and billing operations of its book division.

Mrs. Courtney was born in Hillsboro, N.D. She attended the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and was married in Ticonderoga, N.Y. in 1940. The couple subsequently lived in Hartford, Conn. and Meredith, N.H. After Mr. Courtney was ordained in 1951, they lived in Waddington, N.Y. and Salisbury, Charlotte and Blowing Rock, N.C. In all of these places Mrs. Courtney engaged in social work or work with youth groups.

The family moved to the Washington area in 1965. The Rev. Mr. Courtney was acting vicar of the Chapel of St. Phillip the Evangel in Washington and was associated with other churches in this area before moving to St. Barnabas.

In addition to her husband, of Temple Hills, Mrs. Courtney's survivors include two daughters, Anne C. Jackson of Alexandria, and Julia Ward Courtney of Temple Hills; a sister, Anne Louise Christianson of Moorhead, Minn.; a brother, Merlin Simpson of Grand Island, Neb. and a half-brother, John McCain of Two Rivers, Wis.